CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Protesters on Monday night toppled the controversial ‘Silent Sam’ statue on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
More than 200 protesters first gathered at the Peace and Justice Plaza at about 7 p.m., before marching to the base of the statue, calling for its removal. By 9:30 p.m., the statue was on the ground and the crowd erupted in cheers.
Chancellor Folt released a statement about the toppling.
‘Silent Sam’ had been standing on the UNC campus since 1913.
Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statement Monday night, saying that he “understands that many people are frustrated by the pace of change and he shares their frustration, but violent destruction of public property has no place in our communities.”
Protesters first sectioned off the area around the controversial statue with large banners, blocking it from view. Throughout the course of the evening, people in the crowd speculated about what might be going on behind the banners, but no one confessed to knowing the plan.
People chanted “stand up, fight back” and “hey, hey, ho, ho, this racist statue has got to go.” Many also held signs.
WRAL’s Candace Sweat said she saw a rope that was connected to something behind the banners, and that she heard a creak before the statue came down.
At one point, there were tense moments between protesters and police officers. Protesters deployed smoke canisters.
One person was arrested and charged with resisting arrest and for concealing one’s face during a public rally.
Around 9 p.m., protesters left the base of “Silent Sam” and marched to Franklin Street, where they formed a large circle in the street, briefly blocking the intersection of Franklin and Columbia.
The march continued down Franklin Street and ended back at the base of “Silent Sam.” Soon after, the Confederate statue came crashing down.
Once it was on the ground, protesters were shoveling dirt on top of it and stomping on it.
UNC issued a statement Monday night, calling the actions of the protesters “dangerous.”
“Tonight’s actions were dangerous, and we are very fortunate that no one was injured. We are investigating the vandalism and assessing the full extent of the damage,” the university said in a statement.
Police surrounded the statue once it was on the ground, but they made no further arrests. Overnight, university officials carried the toppled statue away.
As a precaution, authorities were patrolling the area around the Confederate statue on the State Capitol grounds in Raleigh.
Some of the people who were charged in connection with toppling a Confederate monument in Durham were at Monday’s protest. One of those people was Raul Jimenez.
“I’m supporting all the students here today,” he said. “As someone who was tried and found not guilty of taking down a statue in Durham, I am here to support them in taking down this statue.”
First-year students Nora Dickson and Gretchen Mackie said the scene was tense and emotional.
A biology professor at UNC-Chapel Hill said she came out to the protest after she put her kids to bed.
“…all people deserve to be treated with dignity,” she said.
The “Silent Sam” statue has been the site of protests for the past year, with students, faculty and alumni calling it a racist image and begging for officials to remove it.