Silent Sam review: New report analyzes UNC-CH response, suggests protocol changes

February 1, 2019
A national group is behind two billboards in Raleigh that call attention to an effort to remove Silent Sam from the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.

Nearly five months after the controversial “Silent Sam” Confederate statue was toppled on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during a summer evening protest, a blue-ribbon panel has concluded that “serious deficiencies” occurred up to and during the raucous rally.

The task force has outlined several recommendations on how the university should plan for and respond to future campus protests so as to minimize disruption and possible illegal behavior.

The suggestions are contained in a lengthy document of almost 100 pages that was released Friday to the public. The toppling of Silent Sam and Chancellor Carol Folt’s unilateral decision to remove what remained of Silent Sam led to her early departure from the top job at UNC-CH.

The findings were compiled by attorneys from the law firm of Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein and Hillard Heintze, a law enforcement management consulting group.

UNC officials issued a statement about the report.

“We appreciate the findings and recommendations brought forward by the After-Action Assessment Report,” said Robert A. Blouin, executive vice chancellor and provost at UNC-CH. “We believe the learnings from this report will benefit not just Carolina, but other System institutions as well.”

The UNC Board of Governors commissioned the report to examine how the protest occurred and how UNC-CH administrators responded to the Aug. 20 demonstration that culminated with the statue being knocked from its pedestal.

“It should be noted that it is extremely fortunate no one was injured or killed when the statute was toppled,” the report says, revealing publicly for the first time that an undercover police officer intervened to prevent anyone from being hurt as the statue came tumbling down. The group created a timeline of events that occurred before and during the protest.

The five key recommendations and findings in the report:

The report’s authors said there was not a conspiracy among or between police, administrators and demonstrators to topple the statue that evening, but it was apparent that “UNC-CH struggled to communicate, prepare and execute their plans for the Aug. 20, 2018 demonstration, which ultimately resulted in the toppling of Silent Sam.”

It’s not clear what will happen to Silent Sam although one recent suggestion has included an idea to move the statue to a history center near Dunn.

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