‘Let’s give them lots of space…’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) Newly released emails and text messages show that Chapel Hill police officers were told to stand back and allow the Silent Sam Confederate statue to be torn down by protestors on Aug. 20.
A public records request exposed hundreds of pages of communication between town authorities, all related to the protest.
Police were criticized for not intervening, but the messages revealed that Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue told officers not to confront the protestors.
“Let’s give them lots of space,” Blue said in a text obtained by the Durham (NC) Herald-Sun.
In a different text, Blue learned that some Chapel Hill officers were with University of North Carolina Police on campus.
“Yes, but do not engage w/ Crowd,” Blue said in response. “Stay way out.”
The next day, Blue congratulated the officers on a job well done, thanking them for “good work during a challenging time,” in an email.
More than 50 officers were present at the protest, and Blue said they were there to “support and assist UNC as needed.”
When citizens questioned why the Chapel Hill police officers allowed protestors to violently tear down the statue, Blue told the officers: “While some of today’s comments have been critical, you should know that I have received many comments form appreciative community members who recognize your considerable patience during a time when law enforcement is being uniquely tested. And I’m understandably proud of our agency’s history of protecting people. All who were working last night most certainly did that well.”
UNC Board of Governors member Thom Goolsby criticized Blue and the police force, saying the officers were “highly derelict” in their duty “by standing back and allowing these outside criminal elements to riot and destroy state property.”
The Chapel Hill Mayor, Pam Hemminger, responded by saying the police’s main responsibility was to detour vehicular traffic.
“When the crowd spilled onto Franklin Street, police officers detoured vehicular traffic,” Hemminger said in a statement. “This is our standard practice in the interest of public safety. Our focus for any large crowd event is to keep people safe.”