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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Silent Sam Protesters Are Taking a Break, But Vow They'll Be Back

Posted by on Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 7:53 PM

click to enlarge 20170826_152457_1_1_.jpg
A group staging a sit-in around a Confederate monument at UNC is taking a break from their protest after campus police seized items from their campsite.

A fluctuating group has occupied the base of the statue, known as Silent Sam, since a protest calling for its removal last Tuesday. Several people, mostly students, have camped out overnight around the statue, which is just off Franklin Street. Although they weren't allowed to set up tents (one was taken Thursday by UNC police), they had set up tables, blankets, and signs that covered the statue of the Confederate solider.

Tahj Warren, one of the student protesters, says the group will be taking the Labor Day weekend to "regroup, plan, and take some time off so we're able to move ahead in full force."

"We do have a lot of people who have offered their support in terms of legal advice other things like that," she says. "We want to plan to come back strong, and we want to make sure there are no holes when we come back and we know our rights to the fullest extent of the law."


Warren says the group was visited Wednesday night by UNC Police Chief Jeff McCracken, who said they needed to move their things by sunrise.

"He said we violated the grounds policy [and] we had always been in violation by being there, but they had been allowing it so far," Warren says.

They packed up some things they didn't want taken, but with a rally in support of the UNC Center for Civil Rights planned for Thursday, they didn't want to leave the site entirely.

"We had started to store our things that we thought were vital. We knew the rally was going to be happening the next day. We had planned to stay and hold up signs for the rally," Warren says.

Thursday morning, containers, tarps, and tables loaned by the art department were taken by university officials.

UNC policy prohibits "statues, plaques and monuments; props, signage and displays; furniture, such as chairs, desks, tables, and cabinets; shelters, such as tents, boxes, shanties and other enclosures; cages, stages and theaters; inflatables; and other similar physical structures" in exterior campus spaces without approval. Warren had asked for permission to put up tents last Wednesday, but she was denied on the grounds that “no temporary structures whatsoever shall be erected or placed on lawn space beneath the drip lines of trees.”

While faculty have discussed Silent Sam and Chancellor Carol Folt says she would remove the statue if not for state law, Warren says the group has yet to receive any "direct word from the administration" regarding their calls for the statue's removal.

Warren says protesters will be back at it on Tuesday, although the specific action is not being announced yet. Updates will posted on the group's Facebook page and Twitter account.

"As soon as something does happen, we do plan to move in a big way," she says.

According to NC Policy Watch, the state Historical Commission, which has oversight over "objects of remembrance," plans to discuss what to do with Confederate monuments on public property on September 22.

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