Police ‘broke the peace’ at UNC’s Silent Sam protest, say 8 who were arrested

Silent Sam opponents who were arrested at Saturday’s demonstration at UNC-Chapel Hill released a statement Sunday criticizing the actions of police, who they say “broke the peace” near the base of the Confederate statue.

“When the eight arrests took place, there were no neo-Confederates on campus; they had left at least ten minutes earlier,” said a statement from Defend UNC, an opposition group of the Silent Sam Confederate statue. “Whatever safety risk the police believed themselves to be mitigating had passed. The police themselves were the only threat on McCorkle Place. They were undeniably the ones who broke the peace.”

The statement was signed by Jody Anderson, Jason Athavale, Jayna Fishman, Joseph Baldoni Karlik, Josh Mascharka, Julia Pulawski, Brandon Webb and Christopher Wells. They identified themselves as “the eight anti-racist activists brutally arrested” on Saturday.

On Sunday night, UNC released these names and charges of those arrested:

Jody Anderson, 21, was charged with assault on a government official.

Jaya Athavale, 18, was charged with resisting a public officer and failure to disperse.

Jayna Corinne Fishman, 22, was charged with assault on a campus police officer.

Joseph Baldoni Karlik, 27, was charged with resisting a public officer and failure to disperse.

Joshua Abram Macharka, 25, was charged with assault on a government official, resisting an officer, weapons on educational property (two knives) and failure to disperse.

Julia Tatiana Pulawski, 30, was charged with resisting a public officer and assault on a campus police officer.

Brandon Alexander Webb, 27, was charged with disorderly conduct at a protest (setting off smoke bomb) and resisting a public officer.

Christopher David Wells, 30, was charged with resisting a public officer and failure to disperse.

Among the arrested were at least two UNC students, at least two N.C. State University students and a Durham Technical Community College student, Wells said in an interview.

Also, Karlik was one of eight people charged in the toppling of a Confederate statue in downtown Durham in August 2017. Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols dismissed the charges against him and four others in February after a judge acquitted one suspect and dismissed charges against two others.

At least 26 people have now been charged in connection with Silent Sam protests on the UNC campus on Aug. 20, 25, 30 and Saturday.

Saturday protest

Supporters and opponents of Silent Sam faced off again Saturday afternoon, yelling at each other near the base of the statue, which was toppled Aug. 20. The arrests were made just before 7 p.m. as law enforcement used smoke to maintain safety and order, university officials said.

“Concurrent events were scheduled on McCorkle Place by two separate groups,” UNC Police said in the unsigned statement released Sunday night.

“UNC Police and other law enforcement agencies worked together to maintain the safety of all gathered as verbal interaction between the two groups grew heated,” the statement continued. “As participants departed, some individuals confronted and assaulted officers. Law enforcement officials made eight arrests before clearing the area around 7:30 p.m.”

Wells, a Durham Tech student and Defend UNC organizer, said he was in the crowd of Silent Sam protesters who gathered near the Graham Memorial building as one person was arrested and taken inside. He said law enforcement then began advancing on protesters, using their bicycles to hit people.

“I saw one giant cop throw a young woman half his size onto the ground and saw her head hit the sidewalk,” Wells said. “And when I went to try to help her up, so she wasn’t trampled by the advancing officers, I was thrown to the ground as well.”

When he got up, law enforcement threw a smoke grenade at him, he said.

“Next thing I know, I hear a police officer yell, ‘OK get him!’”

Police officers face off with students and protesters after pro-Confederate demonstrators were escorted off campus on Saturday, September 8, 2018. Julia Wall jwall@newsobserver.com

Wells said police dragged him inside Graham Memorial, where he said they pinned him down.

“One officer with his knee on the back of my head pressing my face into the floor, another officer with his knee on back,” Wells said. “I couldn’t breathe very well, but I tolerated it for a while assuming that it would be over. But after it wasn’t over and they were still pinning me, I wheezed, ‘I can’t breathe.’

“And they told me, ‘Nobody cares.’”

University officials did not offer a response to the allegations against law enforcement Sunday other than the statement.

N.C. State student Jody Anderson declined to say what led to his arrest. In a video, he’s seen on the ground in front of Graham Memorial while a police officer has him in a choke hold.

In its statement, Defend UNC included Facebook video of the altercation between protesters and police.

Confederate flags

Before the arrests, a dozen men and women holding Confederate flags gathered for a vigil in a sectioned-off area near where Silent Sam had stood on McCorkle Place. They were outnumbered by about 100 anti-Silent Sam protesters gathered nearby for what they called a “Nazis Suck Potluck and Food Drive.”

Police escorted the Silent Sam backers to the barricaded area as the counter-protesters chanted “Nat Turner, John Brown, anti-racists run this town!” and “(Expletive) your flag!” Those who support Silent Sam stood in a circle and prayed, then began yelling back at the counter-protesters.

Things were tense between the two sides. As police then began to lead the Silent Sam supporters away from the area, someone threw a smoke bomb.

A pro-Confederate demonstrator yells at protesters from behind a barricade on Saturday, September 8, 2018. Julia Wall jwall@newsobserver.com

Afterward, some counter-protesters began yelling at the police. Some officers used the handlebars of their bicycles to push the crowd back.

Those opposed to Silent Sam brought canned goods to donate. Police, fearing the cans could be thrown during the protest, collected them in recycling bins. They said they would give them back to the students later.

The university later said in a statement that the canned food would be delivered to Heavenly Groceries, the charity chosen by food drive organizers.

Staff writer Mark Schultz contributed to this story.

As protesters gathered for a potluck and canned food drive on McCorkle Place on Saturday, September 8, 2018, UNC Police officers confiscated the cans and placed them in a locked recycling bin. They instructed attendees to place their cans in the bins, and said that they would be returned to them at a later time. Protesters confronted the officers to demand answers as to why they had confiscated the canned goods at all. Julia Wall jwall@newsobserver.com
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