Education

They defaced a memorial to those who built UNC-Chapel Hill. Here’s what a judge said.

Ryan Francis Barnett, left, and Nancy Rushton McCorkle
Ryan Francis Barnett, left, and Nancy Rushton McCorkle

Two people charged with defacing UNC-Chapel Hill’s monument to people of color who helped build the university will pay a fine and perform community service, a judge ruled last week.

Ryan Barnett, 31, and Nancy McCorkle, 50, were found guilty of injury to real property and larceny, both misdemeanors.

Barnett was also found guilty of indecent exposure and public urination.

They were accused of vandalizing the Unsung Founders Memorial and an outdoor art installation outside Hanes Art Center in March. They also were accused of stealing a flag from outside the UNC System General Administration offices.

The Unsung Founders Memorial, a gift of the Class of 2002, is a black, circular granite table held aloft by figures of enslaved and free African Americans. It’s on the McCorkle Place quad, close to where the Confederate soldier Silent Sam stood until protesters toppled the statue in August 2018.

A crowd of protesters pull down the Confederate statue known as Silent Sam on the campus of the University of North Carolina Monday night, Aug. 20, 2018.

IndyWeek reported Barnett and McCorkle used Magic Markers to write “(Expletive) this monument!!! Destroy this monument to racism!!!” “Confederate lives matter!!!” “Yankee go home, antifa sucks.”

UNC condemned the vandalism, which also mentioned two anti-Confederate student protesters, vowing to hold those responsible accountable.

“These events challenge not only our most fundamental community values, but also the safety of our campus,” interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said at the time.

Orange County District Court Judge Lunsford Long sentenced Barnett and McCorkle to 200 hours of community service, 18 months of unsupervised probation and a $500 fine.

They must also pay $1,326 in restitution. That cost is for UNC’s labor and supplies to remove the graffiti, IndyWeek reported. Barnett was also fined an additional $100 for the indecent exposure charge.

They turned down a plea deal last month.

unc.arrest.jpg
Ryan Francis Barnett, left, and Nancy Rushton McCorkle UNC Police

Barnett of Sanford and McCorkle of Newberry, South Carolina, have been associated with Heirs to the Confederacy, a group that has clashed with anti-racist student and community protesters.

Barnett and McCorkle were both charged with ethnic intimidation for their actions, but were found not found guilty of that crime, according to court records.

North Carolina’s ethnic intimidation statute specifies “another person” as the victim of assault, property damage or a threat based on that individual’s race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin.

“My belief is they are not guilty of ethnic intimidation,” Long said, according to IndyWeek. “I think they intended to intimidate a whole race of people, not a person.”

Staff writer Virginia Bridges contributed to this story.

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Kate Murphy covers higher education for The News & Observer. Previously, she covered higher education for the Cincinnati Enquirer on the investigative and enterprise team and USA Today Network. Her work has won state awards in Ohio and Kentucky and she was recently named a 2019 Education Writers Association finalist for digital storytelling.
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