(Brendan Clarey, Liberty Headlines) Protests on Tuesday night at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill resulted in at least two arrests by university police according to local news.
The protest of the Confederate statue known as “Silent Sam” was scheduled for around 7 p.m. and follows in the footsteps of many protests of Confederate monuments around the country. Around 800 protesters demonstrated according to WRAL-TV, the NBC affiliate in Raleigh.
“As a University, the free exchange of ideas under the First Amendment is core to our mission,” said the university in a statement. “Carolina has long been a hospitable forum and meeting place for the peaceful dissemination of differing views. It’s important to note that the vast majority of those who attended tonight’s rally honored that tradition.”
“Unfortunately some individuals did not behave in this spirit,” the statement continued, referring to the few who were arrested, which local news reports is up to three while the statement only lists two.
Before the protests, the president of the UNC-System, President Margaret Spellings, wrote a letter Monday to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper asking for assistance with law enforcement and potentially removing the statue which cannot be removed by UNC, but only by the North Carolina Historical Commission.
Cooper replied, according to NC Capitol Connection, but the media reported on his response letter before the UNC Board of Governors had seen a copy, something that some on the board see as a way to gain the protest more attention in the media. At least one board member was upset about the way that the governor handled his response letter.
“Why in the hell would somebody send that letter, and write their own letter talking about removal of a monument, to the N&O, to probably come out on the front page of the paper the day of the protest,” said Marty Kotis, a member of the board.
“I bet it will be on the front page of the (Raleigh) News & Observer,” he continued. “And now the Silent Sam issue, and Tuesday night’s planned protest, may attract people who might not have originally intended to attend the event had they not seen the letters in the paper.”
The governor’s letter to the UNC President Spellings provided a way for the school to remove the monument if it becomes a threat to public safety.
“If the University and its leadership believe such a dangerous condition is on campus, then the law gives it the authority to address those concerns. State law enforcement and emergency officials remain available to help and support the University as it navigates this process,” Cooper responded Monday in his letter.
However the University released a statement Tuesday that disagreed with the Governor’s advice because the monument itself is not unsafe and does not immediately pose a risk for surrounding students in its own right.
“Despite how it is being interpreted in the media, the University has not been given the clear legal authority to act unilaterally. Governor Cooper cites a provision where removal would be permitted if a ‘building inspector’ concludes that physical disrepair of a statue threatens public safety, a situation not present here. The University is now caught between conflicting legal interpretations of the statute from the Governor and other legal experts,” the statement from Tuesday afternoon.
“Based on law enforcement agencies’ assessments, we continue to believe that removing the Confederate Monument is in the best interest of the safety of our campus, but the University can act only in accordance with the laws of the state of North Carolina,” the statement continued.
This all comes after a deadly protest in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month which started over the planned removal of a monument for Confederate General Robert E. Lee. A woman was killed after a man ran into the protesters with his car.