Officials from UNC and the Town of Chapel Hill are preparing for the potential for demonstrations in downtown where the campus and town meet on Saturday.
The UNC administration sent a message to the campus community on Friday that said the university “is preparing for the possibility of opposing demonstrations on and near campus.”
The message adds, “The Town of Chapel Hill has alerted us of a planned protest by Confederate supporters downtown.”
A counter demonstration has been planned for McCorkle Place, where the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam stood on the campus for more than 100 years before protesters topple the statue last August. The area around where the statue stood has been the location for several protests bringing those with opposing views on the monument face to face.
A permit has been approved by the Town of Chapel Hill for a demonstration on Saturday at Peace and Justice Plaza, across Franklin Street from McCorkle Place.
The permit application estimates that “10-20 American Citizens” are planning to hold an event featuring “a prayer, a pledge, and 3-4 people speaking.” The application said the group will use a megaphone and pass out flyers.
The application was submitted on April 6 and approved on May 1.
A letter from Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue attached to the application said that the permit approval comes with conditions.
“Your group is not to exceed 25 attendees,” Blue wrote. He added that attendees “will remain on Peace and Justice Plaza and will not walk around the Central Business District” of Franklin Street.
Attendees will be allowed to have flag poles, Blue wrote, but if “at any time, the presence of flag poles creates an unsafe condition, you will be required to remove the flags from the area.”
Another stipulation is that no weapons will be allowed on Peace and Justice Plaza and that the town “will not provide any special parking for your or your group, nor will we provide you with an escort to or from the parking locations you select.”
The permit was approved from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturday.
The message to the campus acknowledges that tensions have been high in recent months following the toppling of Silent Sam.
“Given the events over this past academic year, we are mindful that the atmosphere is highly charged, and protests that begin peacefully do no always remain that way.”
The message continues:
“While we may not agree with all viewpoints expressed, as a public institution, we must uphold the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, in addition to the General Assembly’s North Carolina Restore and Preserve Free Speech Act and a Board of Governors policy on free speech and free expression in the UNC System, both enacted in 2017.”
Two arrests were made recently following the defacement of the Unsung Founders memorial and an art exhibit on the university campus, which the administration described as “racist actions.” Another incident is under further review after a member of a pro-Confederate group brought a firearm onto the campus in mid-March, which is illegal. The man was not arrested but was instead asked to leave the campus grounds, which he did.
UNC interim chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz also recently announced the formation of a Campus Safety Commission. That body held its first meeting on Wednesday.