Return Silent Sam to ‘its rightful place,’ Confederate group says

Protesters topple Silent Sam Confederate statue at UNC

A crowd of protesters pull down the Confederate statue known as Silent Sam on the campus of the University of North Carolina Monday night, Aug. 20, 2018.
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A crowd of protesters pull down the Confederate statue known as Silent Sam on the campus of the University of North Carolina Monday night, Aug. 20, 2018.

The North Carolina division of Sons of Confederate Veterans is demanding leaders at UNC-Chapel Hill return the Silent Sam statue to the pedestal where it has perched for more than a century.

Frank Powell, a spokesman for the group, sent a letter to UNC Chancellor Carol Folt on Tuesday, the day after protesters toppled the Confederate monument, demanding “it be put back in its rightful place.”

“Well, the rule of law states it must be put back, and that’s our position,” Powell told The News & Observer on Wednesday.

In the letter to Folt, the group also asked the university to protect and safely store the statue. Crews loaded Silent Sam into a truck and hauled it away in the early-morning hours Tuesday, but the university has not said where the statue is now.

“We trust that despite last night’s permissive anarchy that the University now understands its obligations under the law and will act accordingly,” the letter reads.

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A North Carolina law passed in 2015 meant to protect memorials and monuments says an object that is temporarily moved must be “returned to its original location within 90 days of completion of the project that required its temporary removal.“

A university spokesperson confirmed late Wednesday that Folt received the letter.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy gained approval from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1908 to erect the Silent Sam monument. The statue was put in place in 1913 in honor of UNC students who fought in the Civil War.

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In a rally Monday night, protesters pulled the statue to the ground with ropes, using the cover of tall banners. Powell on Wednesday criticized the actions of UNC police and Chapel Hill police that night.

“If we don’t follow our laws then we just have anarchy and chaos, and then we’ll be a third-world country,” Powell said.

Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil said the town’s police did not help organize the response on the university’s campus, The News & Observer has reported.

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Folt, UNC System President Margaret Spellings, UNC Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith and UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees Chairman Haywood Cochrane said in a joint statement Tuesday that they did not instruct campus police to allow protesters to topple the monument.

“[M]any have questioned how police officers responded to protesters and how the University managed the event,” the statement said. “Safety is always paramount, but at no time did the administration direct the officers to allow protesters to topple the monument. During the event, we rely on the experience and judgment of law enforcement to make decisions on the ground, keeping safety as the top priority.”

On Thursday, the Sons of Confederate Veterans will send additional lettersto state Rep. Tim Moore, state Sen. Phil Berger and each member of the UNC Board of Governors and UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, according to Jake Sullivan, a member of the organization.

Those letters will also demand a timely return of Silent Sam, Sullivan said.

The N.C. Historical Commission recommended on Wednesday that three Confederate monuments stay on the state Capitol grounds. Frank Powell, spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, spoke to the press about the decision.

Camila Molina: 919-829-4538, @Cmolina__