Arrests, Violence at UNC After Counter-Protesters Shut Down Supporters of Silent Sam | News
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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Arrests, Violence at UNC After Counter-Protesters Shut Down Supporters of Silent Sam

Posted by on Sat, Aug 25, 2018 at 3:26 PM

click to enlarge LEIGH TAUSS
  • Leigh Tauss

Seven people were arrested at the University of Chapel Hill Saturday after Confederate flag-wielding supporters of Silent Sam clashed with counter-protesters near the stump of the fallen monument to white supremacy, prompting police in riot gear to swarm the area. Counter-protesters were slammed into buildings and onto the ground as police attempted to gain control of the situation.


UNC urged students to stay away from the area Friday after rumors emerged that self-identified members of Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia group, were planning to demonstrate on campus in support of Silent Sam. Students toppled the statue Monday, to much condemnation from university leaders and politicians alike. Board of Governors member Thom Goolsby said the monument would be put back up within ninety days in accordance with a state law prohibiting the permanent removal of such "objects of remembrance," but UNC's chancellor has not answered questions from reporters as to what would happen with the statute.

Saturday's demonstration stood in stark contrast to the one Monday evening, when police largely stood down as protesters covered Silent Sam, which has stood on campus since 1913, with tall banners and used ropes to pull the figure of a young Confederate soldier to the ground with a thud. Last academic year also began with protests against Silent Sam that saw arrests, scuffles with police and officers in riot gear. UNC students and faculty have called for Silent Sam to be removed for decades, reaching a fever pitch in the aftermath of last summer's violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and the subsequent toppling of a Confederate monument in Durham.


People began to converge on McCorkle Place, just off the main drag through downtown Chapel Hill, at about  ten a.m., in addition to members of the media. Shortly thereafter about a half-dozen Silent Sam supporters arrived with Confederate flags and attempted to stand in front of the fallen statue’s stump, but were blocked by dozens of counter protesters with signs saying “Black Lives Matter,” “Fuck white supremacy,” and “Tear it down.”

click to enlarge LEIGH TAUSS
  • Leigh Tauss

By noon, the crowd on the quad had swelled to over two hundred, with counter-protesters greatly outnumbering the Silent Sam supporters, who retreated back from the statue and toward a nearby tree. Surrounded by counter-protesters, the supporters of statue celebrating institutional white supremacy cowered under their vintage flags as crowds around them shouted “Racists go home.” Some retreated across the street, followed by hoards of counter protesters and police, briefly blocking traffic.

click to enlarge LEIGH TAUSS
  • Leigh Tauss

A few minutes later, a counter-protester attempted to light a Confederate flag on fire and was promptly arrested. As the counter-protester was dragged by police to a nearby building, the crowd followed demanding he be released, leading to a scuffle outside the building as police pushed back the crowd, shoving fifteen-year-old Ohen Ash, a Chapel Hill High School sophomore, into a door which afterword appeared stained with blood. Another counter-protester was slammed onto the ground, put into a headlock and arrested.


After police dragged two counter-protesters into the building at least two dozen more officers in riot gear marched onto the quad to escort the arrestees from the scene. Counter protesters followed the cops chanting and police formed a makeshift barricade with bikes.


click to enlarge LEIGH TAUSS
  • Leigh Tauss

Outside the building, former UNC law professor Elizabeth Haddix called the police violence against the counter protesters “demoralizing.”

"I’ve not observed equal treatment between the way (the cops) were treating people with confederate flags and memorabilia and the people protesting white supremacy,” Haddix said. “Some of (the police) have exhibited clearly hostile behavior towards the protesters. They’ve not held the Confederate flag people to the same boundaries.”


Snapping pictures alongside the protesters was whistle-blower and activist Chelsea Manning, who served seven years in prison for leaking military documents. She was there to support the counter-protesters.

“It shouldn’t go back up,” Manning said. “I don’t care what the state law says.”

click to enlarge LEIGH TAUSS
  • Leigh Tauss

The scene calmed down by about one-thirty p.m., with some counter-protesters leaving to support those arrested at the Hillsborough jail.

However, more Silent Sam supporters returned to the area and were once again swarmed by about eighty people.

“The student body needs to demonstrate that we’re not going to allow violence and white supremacy to have a space on our campus without a fight,” said UNC graduate student Tim Osborn.

UNC spokesman Randy Young said a total of seven arrests were made on campus by one-thirty p.m. The identities of those arrested, and the charges, have not yet been released.

Additional reporting by Cole Villena.

Update: In a statement this afternoon calling the demonstration "highly charged," UNC said none of the seven people arrested are affiliated with the university.

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