Silent Sam protester faces honor court charge at UNC

Maya Little, the UNC graduate student who threw ink and blood onto the Silent Sam Confederate statue in April, has been charged with honor court violations, according to a statement accompanying an online petition.

Little said she was charged June 4 by UNC's Office of Student Conduct with "stealing, destroying or misusing property," a violation of the honor code. The 25-year-old doctoral student in history from Columbus, Ohio, threw red ink and her own blood on the base of Silent Sam monument in late April. She described it as an act of civil disobedience and an effort to provide context of the statue's white supremacist beginnings.

"My Honor Court hearing may very well coincide with the criminal trial I already face for spilling red ink and my blood on Silent Sam," her statement said. "The Honor Court will determine whether my protest against Confederate monuments is conduct unbecoming of a UNC affiliate."

After her defiant act, Little was arrested and charged with defacing a public statue. Her court date is Aug. 20.

More than 500 people had signed the petition late Thursday urging the charge to be dropped.

In a statement on the petition website, Little said there was no record of honor court charges against UNC students who threw blue paint on Silent Sam in 1982 to celebrate an NCAA basketball championship or the N.C. State students who tossed paint on the statue in 1974 after their basketball championship.

"At UNC, dousing the monument in paint in the name of basketball is deemed a pastime while doing the same to contextualize and fight racism is a crime," Little's statement said. "Revealing the racist violence upon which Sam was built — exposing a truth the university would like to keep covered — could result in my expulsion."

An honor court charge can entail an investigation and can ultimately lead to a judicial proceeding with punishment, including probation, suspension or expulsion. In an interview, Little said she did not know whether the charge was prompted by a complaint or the police report.

Efforts to reach UNC honor court representatives were unsuccessful Thursday.

Silent Sam has been vandalized for years, often with spray paint. A video last year showed a man climbing the statue and hammering its face. UNC has surveillance cameras pointed at the site, and police officers keep a steady watch on the area.

For months, student protesters and faculty groups have been pushing for the statue to be relocated. Chancellor Carol Folt has said she worries about students' safety and she'd like to move the statue. A 2015 state law prohibits the removal of historic monuments except in certain exceptions, including the protection of the object.

Little said she wasn't shocked at the honor court charge.

"This kind of retaliation has been going on all year, and trying to silence us has been going on all year, so I wasn't surprised," Little said. "I would ask Chancellor Folt and others, do they see what I did and my protest as wrong? Is it unbecoming of a UNC student?"

Little said she has received an outpouring of support from fellow students and others, but also death threats on social media.

She sees herself as following in the footsteps of civil rights protesters, including the African American students who staged sit-ins at lunch counters in Greensboro during the 1960s.

"People are very tired of having no one respond when there is a clear issue of racial injustice on this campus," she said.

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill