Students protest Silent Sam on UNC campus

Students protested the Confederate statue known as Silent Sam on Monday, interrupting the University Day ceremony commemorating UNC-Chapel Hill’s 222nd birthday.

About two dozen protesters rose at the start of the proceedings and shouted about the statue, calling it a glorified symbol of slavery. “Tear it down, or we shut you down,” they chanted four times. Then they walked out, to a smattering of applause among the crowd at a packed Memorial Hall.

Earlier, they had gathered at the statue, where they hung a black skirt on the barrel of the statue’s gun. When the statue was installed more than a century ago, Julian Carr, the namesake of Carrboro, reportedly gave a speech in which he said he had whipped a Negro woman until her skirt was in tatters.

“When you dedicate a monument and brag about how you whipped a Negro wench, you can’t possibly argue 102 years later that this monument wasn’t about white supremacy,” said Shelby Dawkins-Law, 26, a doctoral student from Washington, D.C.

The statue has been vandalized several times in recent months. Earlier this year, trustees voted to rename a campus building that had been named for a purported Ku Klux Klan leader. The university is undertaking a process to curate its history and recommend new signs with more context about campus landmarks.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, who stood at the podium while the students chanted, said universities are places where people can speak with “real heart and voice.”

“I’m really glad that they felt comfortable to come here, and that we were all able to listen and hear their very important message,” Folt said.

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill