University of North Carolina (UNC) police arrested three individuals during a protest Tuesday night at the school’s “Silent Sam” statue of a Confederate soldier.
A few hundred people attended the protest, which featured chants like “tear it down” and “hey, hey, ho, ho, this racist statue has got to go,” according to CBS News. Protesters also carried signs with slogans like “police, what are you protecting?” and “losers don’t usually get trophies.”
“[Silent Sam] celebrates the subjugation of black and brown people,” said Mario Benavente, a UNC senior who spoke to the crowd.
UNC police officers erected barriers around the statue and stood guard within them.
“We are always concerned about safety on the campus and if we had the ability to immediately move the statue in the interest of public safety, we would,” said Carol Folt, chancellor of UNC, in a Tuesday email to the college community.
UNC also released a Tuesday statement lauding the protesters for peacefully sharing their viewpoint in accordance with the First Amendment, while noting that some individuals did not do so.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper told UNC Monday that the school could “take immediate measures” to remove the Silent Sam statue if there existed a “real risk to public safety.” The governor issued this statement despite a 2015 North Carolina law forbidding the removal of Confederate memorials without legislative consent.
Cooper responded to a letter in which UNC expressed concern over the statue’s future, remarking that its school police believe “it is only a matter of time before an attempt is made to pull down Silent Sam in much the same manner we saw in Durham.” (RELATED: Protesters Topple Confederate Statue In North Carolina [VIDEO])
“Despite how it is being interpreted in the media, the University has not been given the clear legal authority to act unilaterally,” said UNC in a Tuesday statement. “Governor Cooper cites a provision where removal would be permitted if a ‘building inspector’ concludes that physical disrepair of a statue threatens public safety, a situation not present here. The University is now caught between conflicting legal interpretations of the statute from the Governor and other legal experts.”
UNC received the Silent Sam statue in 1913. The statue is “silent” because its gun cartridge box lacks ammunition.
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