Orange County

Protesters clash at UNC-Chapel Hill, less than a week after Silent Sam was toppled

Police had arrested seven people by early Saturday afternoon, as protesters clashed at UNC-Chapel Hill five days after the toppling of the Silent Sam Confederate monument.

In a media conference call later in the day, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said she won’t be rushed into a decision about what happens next to Silent Sam. She has to keep an “eye on safety, preparing for events and identifying a sustainable solution,” Folt said.

“I think we need to really look into that,” she said. “We’ve just had a lot of new information when the Historical Commission looked at the law and the timing of the law. So we’re certainly looking into all of those things and trying to really understand what it says, what it requires.”

Some people carrying Confederate flags gathered Saturday at McCorkle Place on campus. Far more people gathered in support of the toppling of Silent Sam, which protesters tore down Monday night. Silent Sam supporters numbered no more than a couple of dozen, while the anti-protesters had the numbers on their side, with about 200 people shouting and chanting various slogans.

Skirmishes broke out among the groups, after police earlier in the day unloaded riot gear. Around noon, police led away a Confederate supporter after he punched another man, after a wreath had been ripped from the supporter’s hand. Earlier in the day, officers led away one man who had bumped up against a man carrying a Confederate flag.

In McCorkle Place, there were about 50 campus police officers. About 10 were stationed inside the barricade surrounding the base that once supported the statue. The rest were scattered around in groups ready to intercede when the protestors and anti-protestors came together. There also were several dozen Chapel Hill police and State Highway Patrol officers stationed along Franklin Street in case the protest moved off campus, and police departments from other UNC campuses were on hand.

UNC police stood inside the barricades around Silent Sam and around the perimeter of the crowd, stepping in only when things got out of hand. When asked why they were not separating the different groups, officers said the protest was not the time to ask questions.

Folt said the university’s goals are public safety and transparency about what’s happening on campus.

Saturday’s protest “was highly charged at times, and I’m extremely grateful once again that there were no serious injuries,” she said.

Three people were arrested for assault, according to UNC spokeswoman Carly Miller. They were identified as Danielle Shochet, Barry Brown and John Quick. Charged with damage to property were Alexander Joustra and Lillian Laura Price. Charged with resisting arrest was Kristin Emory. Thomas Bruefach was charged with resisting arrest and inciting a public disturbance. Their ages and addresses were not provided.

That brings to 11 the number of people arrested or charged in Silent Sam protests since Monday night. Folt said none are UNC students.

Those arrested on Monday night in connection with toppling the statue are: Jonathan Fitzgerald Fuller, 27; Lauren Aucoin, 23; and Raul Arce, 27, according to a news release Saturday. They are charged with misdemeanor rioting and misdemeanor defacing of a public monument. Their towns of residence were not provided.

Also, earlier in Monday’s rally, Ian Broadhead was charged with concealing his face at a public rally and resisting arrest.

UNC and Chapel Hill police scuffle with protesters they are attempting to arrest during a rally in front of Graham Memorial Building on the campus of UNC in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, August 25, 2018. The rally featured those for and against the removal of the controversial Silent Sam statue which was toppled earlier this week. Chuck Liddy

The crowd at times turned on police, rushing behind them when someone was arrested and yelling at them to let the person go. At least two police officers fell to the ground during one arrest.

The crowd laughed when the first officer tripped over a scooter that had been left on the lawn. Another officer helped him to his feet and they rejoined other officers escorting a suspect to Graham Hall.

The second officer was among several who were jostled as the crowd closed in under the portico of Graham Hall to keep officers from going inside with an arrested protester.

A protester pushed the officer, and he and other officers pushed the crowd back, but the crowd surged forward. The officer wrapped his arm around the neck of the protester who pushed him, and the men fell to the concrete. Other officers pushed the crowd back and helped the two to their feet. Someone inside finally opened the door so officers could take both suspects inside.

It’s tough to maintain public safety during large protests, Folt said, but she’s proud of the work that UNC campus police are doing.

“I think we have to defer to the law enforcement’s strategy,” she said. “I think a lot of that is trying to manage the crowd, but also allow people to have the protests that are lawfully guaranteed. You know, they have a right to come on campus, they have a right to congregate in these spaces, and we do everything possible to keep them safe.”

A group of roughly 25 motorcycle riders paraded down Franklin Street in front of McCorkle Place at about 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Some had Confederate flags. But they did not stop to join the protest on campus.

The protest also drew others from out of town. Tom Horne, who said he’s a member of the Carolina Defenders, a North Carolina patriot group, drove from Asheville Saturday morning with his family for the protest. Online he goes by Patriot Tom. He said there was another way for the statue to have come down.

“If they had taken it down the right way, using the courts, I wouldn’t have a problem with it,” Horne said. “But this has got to stop.”

Anti-Silent Sam protesters chanted, “We tore your f***ing statue down. What comes up must come down!” Later they chanted, “Black lives, they matter here!” and “Cops and Klan go hand in hand!”

Others gathered to watch the protest.

Ethan Clausett of Carrboro, a 1996 UNC graduate, said he’s attended about a dozen Silent Sam protests over the years.

“I am glad it is down,” he said. “I feel personally invested in seeing it come down.”

A middle-aged man was video chatting with a woman and showing the spectacle as it unfolded.

“I’m an immigrant; I’ve learned the history of both sides,” he said. “I am concerned about the future.”

Protesters yell at supporters of Silent Sam as they leave McCorkle Place on the campus of UNC in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, August 25, 2018. The rally included those for and against the removal of the controversial Confederate statue earlier this week. Several arrests were made. Chuck Liddy

Early in Saturday’s protest, the crowd surrounded a handful of Silent Sam supporters, chanting over them “No platform for white supremacists” and gave the media pamphlets that advocated against interviewing or filming white supremacists.

Other protesters used their hands and signs to block people filming and photographing the Silent Sam supporters.

One UNC student, who only gave her name as Lynn, stood with her back to Silent Sam supporter Casey Becknell, from Davidson County. She asked the media to stop talking with Becknell, who was barefoot and dressed in a brown buckskin-like Confederate uniform.

“Why’s your hair shaking,” Becknell asked the woman. “Are you scared?”

The woman said something to him in a quiet voice.

“Go over there and cry,” he told her.

Becknell said later he decided to show up for the protest because “communism is running rampant” and he wanted to represent Southern soldiers. The university should restore Silent Sam to his post within 90 days as required by law, he said.

“We’ve got local Antifa, like this lady here, [who] come over here and defy the law and tear the statue down and expect no repercussions. Believe me there’s repercussions coming — one way or the other.”

Graduate student Tim Osborne defended the confrontations with media. When the media films and gives a platform to Silent Sam supporters, it is normalizing their ideas and putting more people in danger in the long run, he said.

Osborne said he was threatened by a Silent Sam supporter with a knife at Monday night’s protest. Outside observers don’t always understand what protesters are dealing with when they show up to tense events, like what happened Monday and Saturday, he said.

“I think it’s interesting how we’ve shaped the definition of violence to only include destruction of property, to include these very specific instances,” he said. “This ideology is about harming people, about oppressing people, about keeping people down forcibly. To spew that ideology is violence.”

While protesters and counter-protesters traded harsh words and cold stares in Chapel Hill on Saturday, a group called “Defend Durham” hosted a conference not far from downtown Durham. The conference, titled “How to Topple a Statue, How to Tear Down a Wall,” began Saturday morning, a couple of weeks after the one-year anniversary of protesters tearing down the Confederate statue that stood outside the Durham County courthouse.

When that statue came falling down, it “made people open their eyes,” Takiyah Thompson said on Saturday, speaking during a panel discussion. Thompson, a student at N.C. Central, was among the key figures in the forced removal of the Confederate statue in Durham. Surrounded by protesters who cheered her actions a year ago, she climbed the statue and tied a rope around it. Soon, it was down.

At one point during the conference, Thompson was described as “a hero” to the cause that she and her associates believe in. She and other panelists spoke of a goal to remove Confederate monuments across North Carolina. Maya Little, another local activist and a doctoral history student at UNC-Chapel Hill, was scheduled to speak on Saturday but instead left the conference to return to Chapel Hill, where a small group of protesters carrying Confederate flags were walking on campus by 10 a.m.

Protesters on Monday used a rope to topple Silent Sam, a Confederate monument that has perched on a pedestal on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill for 105 years.

The UNC-Chapel Hill Police Department on Friday filed warrants charging three people in connection with the toppling of the statue. The warrants charge the three with misdemeanor riot and misdemeanor defacing of a public monument, according to a UNC police statement.

UNC officials on Friday said they were preparing for a possible rally Saturday in response to Silent Sam’s fall. In a statement, the university asked community members to stay away from campus.

UNC leaders and many North Carolina leaders, including Gov. Roy Cooper, have criticized the protesters’ actions Monday.

“That Confederate monument has been a flashpoint and a divisive symbol for decades, and especially since Charlottesville, has been the focus of increasing frustration, anxiety and pain for people,” Folt said Thursday.

But Folt added: “No matter what you felt about the monument, what happened on Monday night was destruction of state property, and that is not lawful, and someone could have been badly injured. Using the full breadth of state and university processes, we will do our best to identify, and will hold those responsible accountable.”

As Folt spoke to reporters Saturday afternoon, two more Confederate supporters made their way to the monument’s base. Facing Franklin Street, they stood quietly in front of the base — by then surrounded by only one set of barriers. About 10 campus police remained nearby.

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