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UNC-CH chancellor: ‘We were not remiss’ in leaving ‘Silent Sam’ statue standing before protest

August 25, 2018

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt said Thursday that school officials did not anticipate that students would tear down the “Silent Sam” statue during a Monday night protest.

Protesters on Monday night first sectioned off the area around the controversial statue with large banners, blocking it from view before pulling it down. At one point, there were tense moments between protesters and police officers. Protesters deployed smoke canisters, but no one was injured.

Folt said her understanding of the event beforehand was that about 100 people were expected to gather in support of a UNC student.

“Whatever anyone feels about the Confederate monument, what happened Monday night was destruction of state property,” she said.

Folt said university officials are working to complete an investigation into the incident and that “none of us are happy” with the results of a police post-mortem discussion that took place after the protest.

“We are in the process of trying to understand what happened and how it happened,” Folt said.

Folt would not comment on the details of the investigation, but said that university officials are focusing on student safety and preparation for future events in the wake of Monday’s protest.

“I know our police force. They are well-trained professionals. They know and care deeply for our students. All protests have been handled without injury or damage to property until Monday,” Folt said.

The “Silent Sam” statue has been the site of protests for several years, but a 2015 law made it illegal to move any historical monument unless it’s for reasons of historical preservation or public safety.

Last year, Gov. Roy Cooper told UNC system officials that they had the authority to take immediate action if they felt the statue posed a risk to public safety. The university, however, said the removal of the statue would only be permitted under the law if a building inspector concluded that physical disrepair of the statue threatened public safety.

“I think we’ve done a strong job at trying to follow the law. We were not remiss,” Folt said. “We were waiting for guidance from the historical commission. I can’t speed up the process of law. I understand that might be frustrating.”

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