Fellow UNC students punish protester who poured blood and ink on Silent Sam statue

UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student Maya Little was found responsible Friday for damage to property in an April 30 incident when she poured red ink and blood on the Silent Sam Confederate statue.

A five-member student honor court panel gave her a letter of warning and 18 hours of community service to be completed within three months. The sanction was less severe than the punishment that had been recommended by a student prosecutor — spring semester probation, 60 hours of community service and restitution.

Little was not present when the verdict and sanctions were announced.

In a dramatic moment at the beginning of the second day of the hearing Friday, she walked out of the honor court in protest, saying one of the panelists couldn’t give her a fair hearing because of his previous comments in support of Confederate monuments.

“I do not believe the honor court aims to give me a fair and impartial trial,” Little said, surrounded by supporters who had followed her outside of the hearing room.

Little left after the honor court vice chair, Amelia Ahern, said there was no reason that law student Frank Pray could not be impartial in the case. Ahern said Pray had not made any comments about the specific issue before the court — a charge against Little for damaging the Silent Sam Confederate monument with ink and her own blood.

Pray, who has been a leader of conservative groups at UNC, has made a number of comments about the Confederate statue and activists in social media posts.

During Thursday’s testimony, several of those posts were read in the open honor court hearing. Three years ago, Pray tweeted that Silent Sam protesters were “petulent children” and he told a UNC professor, Altha Cravey, “You’re a disgrace.” Cravey was to be one of Little’s witnesses at the honor court proceeding.

Pray also once made comments during a UNC trustee meeting, saying that Silent Sam is a memorial to “brave North Carolinians who were defending their home state” against the Union Army. “To change the monument in any substantial way that would disrespect that memory and disrespect our ancestors is quite frankly an insult to us and their memories and therefore we can’t let that stand.”

Little said Pray had deleted some of his previous comments just as her trial was getting started.

“Pray claims that his vocal support for slave owners who would not have wanted a black student at UNC does not impair his ability to decide whether to sanction me,” Little said, reading from a prepared statement. “Why then did Pray conceal his comments in favor of Silent Sam? He did so because he knows that his prior public statements make it impossible to view him as impartial. He admitted to deleting comments yesterday, at the outset of my trial, in order to appear less political for the sake of his law career.”

Pray insisted Thursday that he could be impartial, and that his views were irrelevant to the facts of Little’s case.

Despite Little’s objections and the walkout, the hearing continued, but her counsel declined to present further evidence or witnesses on her behalf.

The student who acted as prosecuting counsel argued that Little’s actions on April 30 caused damage to property, in violation of the honor code.

“We may not always agree that our specific conduct violates its provisions based on particular beliefs that we hold,” said Phillip Pullen, the investigative counsel, but he added it was important, “as members of the Carolina community,” to hold fellow students accountable to the code.

“The investigation has indeed proven each element of this charge by a clear and convincing standard as set out,” Pullen said.

Later, Pullen argued Little’s premeditated action required university maintenance workers to spend 60 hours cleaning the statue at a cost of $4,000. “The gravity of this offense is severe,” he said.

Little, a Ph.D. history student from Columbus, Ohio, has said her ink and blood protest was an act of civil disobedience in order to contextualize the monument’s connection to white supremacy in the Jim Crow era. On the day she splashed half gallon bottles of red liquid on the statue, she was arrested on a charge of vandalism by UNC police.

A judge in Orange County found her guilty of a misdemeanor on Oct. 15, but handed down no punishment.

Jane Stancill: 919-819-4559; @janestancill
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