Politics & Government

UNC charges 2 with vandalism and ethnic intimidation in defacing of monument and artwork

Protesters topple Silent Sam Confederate statue at UNC

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.
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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.

Police arrested two people Monday for defacing a monument and an art exhibit on the UNC campus early March 31 with racist graffiti.

The pair also were charged in the theft of a university flag that morning from atop the UNC System Building.

UNC Police Media Relations Manager Randy Young said police charged Nancy Rushton McCorkle, 50, of Newberry, S.C., with vandalism and ethnic intimidation in connection with damage to the Unsung Founders Memorial and an outdoor exhibit near Hanes Art Center.

Ryan Francis Barnett, 31, of Sanford, was charged with two counts of vandalism, one count of ethnic intimidation and one count of public urination. McCorkle and Barnett both were charged with larceny in the theft of the flag, which was shown in online photos.

Young said McCorkle and Barnett have been ordered to stay off the UNC campus or face trespassing charges. Both are to appear in court in Hillsborough later this month.

A photo showing McCorkle holding the UNC system flag with another person was captured by freelance photographer Tony Crider, and was shared on social media.

Reached by online message Monday, McCorkle said, “No comment,” when asked if she was the person in the photo holding the flag.

UNC_System_Flag-2.jpg
Protesters hold a UNC System flag outside the Whitted Building in Hillsborough March 31 when Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour talked. Tony Crider Submitted

The photo was made March 31, when a group of protesters, including McCorkle, gathered outside the Whitted Building in Hillsborough, where Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour spoke.

Crider, who has photographed several demonstrations between Confederate monument supporters and counter-protesters, said the flag they were holding stood out among others being carried at the event.

“When they pulled it out and held it, it made me think about why they would have it,” Crider said. “It caught my eye and I yelled over to them about why they had it.”

UNC interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said after the vandalism that police had identified the people involved as ones associated with the Heirs to the Confederacy group that has protested on campus since the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam was pulled to the ground last August. Lance Spivey, a co-founder of the Heirs group, disavowed the vandalism when contacted by a reporter.

Lindsay Ayling, a UNC graduate student in history, said she has attended most of the events on campus where the “Confederates” group has faced off with student protesters identifying as anti-racists. She said McCorkle and Barnett also have attended some of the events as members of the Confederate group.

Guskiewicz has said he will convene a campus safety commission “to look at all aspects of community safety, including building relationships with campus police.”that would look at campus police. More information about the commission is to be released this month.

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