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Protesters march, call for strike of UNC professors and teaching assistants

Protesters march and call for professors to strike against BOT recommendation for Silent Sam

Several hundred people protested in Chapel Hill on Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, to oppose the recommendation made by the UNC Board of Trustees to build a new $5.3 million building on campus for the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam.
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Several hundred people protested in Chapel Hill on Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, to oppose the recommendation made by the UNC Board of Trustees to build a new $5.3 million building on campus for the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam.

Several hundred demonstrators marched the streets of Chapel Hill and amassed around the boarded up base of the Silent Sam Confederate statue at UNC-Chapel Hill on Monday night, calling for a strike of graduate student teaching assistants.

They were met by a heavy police presence. When protesters began pushing on barricades surrounding the statue’s pedestal, officers put on riot gear, and at least one man was arrested.

The planned protest began quietly outside the downtown post office at 7 p.m. as a speakout against the university’s proposal Monday to house the toppled statue inside a $5.3 million history and education center, to be built at the edge of campus.

One demonstrator carried a sign that said, “No shrine for Sam.”

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A protester carries a flare while marching on Franklin Street Monday night in protest of UNC’s recommendation to house Silent Sam inside a $5.3 million history and education center, to be built at the edge of campus. Julia Wall jwall@newsobserver.com

Maya Little, a Ph.D. student in history who made news this year when she poured ink and blood on the statue, urged graduate student teaching assistants to go on strike. She decried the proposal to spend millions on a new home for Silent Sam at the same time the university wants to impose a new student fee to pay for building renovations.

Protesters called on teaching assistants and professors to withhold grading final exams or assignments for the fall semester and published a list of seven demands on the website silencesam.com.

The president of the Black Student Movement, Qieara Lesesne, said students are demoralized by the proposal put forth Monday by the UNC Board of Trustees. She called on university and state leaders to find an alternative.

“I am hurt but I am not surprised,” Lesesne said. “I am disappointed to be associated with an institution that continuously seeks to protect and glorify the white supremacists who love to hate us.”

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UNC Black Student Movement president, Qieara Lesesne, left, listens as Alex Robinson, vice president, speaks to a large crowd gathered at Peace and Justice Plaza in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Monday, Dec. 3, 2018. Julia Wall jwall@newsobserver.com

Alex Robinson, the vice president of the Black Student Movement, added, “It can’t be Carolina for all when the university continues to invest in white supremacy instead of its own students of color.”

Protesters marched down Franklin Street, blocking traffic at the intersection of Columbia Street, shouting, “Whose streets? Our streets!” A man emerged from the Waffle House restaurant and pumped his fist in the air in support, prompting cheers from the marchers.

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Several hundred demonstrators face off with police at a barricade around the boarded up base of the Silent Sam Confederate statue at UNC-Chapel Hill on Monday night. TRAVIS LONG tlong@newsobserver.com@newsobserver.com

The crowd later moved down Cameron Avenue at the center of the campus, on the way to the former site of Silent Sam, where plywood had been nailed around the statue Monday afternoon. The situation became tense at one point, prompting police to put on riot helmets. One man was detained; his identity was not known, and it was not clear if he was criminally charged.

Eventually, the crowd left the area around the pedestal and marched to South Building, the administrative headquarters that includes the offices of the chancellor.

The rally soon ended peacefully, and as protesters went on their way, police still surrounded the Silent Sam pedestal.

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