UNC grad student activist is arrested again following Monday’s Silent Sam protest

UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student and activist Maya Little was charged with inciting a riot and assaulting an officer following Monday night’s protest against the university’s proposed plan to return the Silent Sam statue to campus.

The charges are misdemeanors.

Little, 26, turned herself in Tuesday at the Orange County Courthouse, according to UNC police. She was not arrested at the scene of the protest, in which hundreds of people marched through downtown Chapel Hill and to the base of the boarded up pedestal where the Confederate statue stood before it was toppled by protesters in August.

In an email Tuesday, Little said she was not told she had been charged until Tuesday.

“I was charged with assault on an officer, a charge that has been commonly used by UNC police when they can’t find anything else to charge activists with, and inciting a riot, both misdemeanors,” Little’s email said. “The only danger and violence present last night was once again caused by university police who came equipped to a student protest with riot gear and tear gas canisters.”

There was one other arrest related to Monday’s protest, according to UNC police.

Mark Porlides, 31, a graduate student from Carrboro, was charged with assault on a police officer and resist, delay or obstruct arrest.

The announcement Monday that UNC proposed to build a new $5.3 million history and education center to house Silent Sam touched off one of the largest protests related to the Confederate statue. The Monday night gathering was largely peaceful, though there were a few skirmishes between UNC police and protesters who surrounded barricades around the statue’s empty base.

The evening began with speeches, including one from Little, before protesters marched down Franklin and Columbia streets and briefly blocked traffic before chanting near the statue’s base and outside UNC’s South Building.

Little, a doctoral student in history from Columbus, Ohio, has become a well-known activist at the Silent Sam protests.

In April, she poured red ink and her own blood on the statue, months before it was torn down. She was arrested by UNC police on a charge of vandalism and was also charged in the university’s honor court.

In October, a judge found her guilty of a misdemeanor but issued no punishment. The same month, a UNC honor court panel found her responsible and gave her 18 hours of community service and a letter of warning. She appealed the case, and had walked out of her hearing, arguing that one panelist could not give her a fair hearing. The panelist had been outspoken in his criticism of student protesters on social media.

On Monday night, Little was critical of university police and asked other graduate students and faculty to join her in a strike, withholding final exam grades and assignments for the fall semester.

“The university works because we do,” she said to the crowd Monday. “If we don’t get it, shut it down.”

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Jane Stancill has reported on higher ed for The News & Observer for 20 years. She has won state and national awards for her coverage of education.
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