‘I went to Silent Sam. I poured my blood and red ink on the statue…’
(Virginia Bridges, The Herald-Sun – Durham, N.C.) A University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill graduate student whose vandalism of the schools Silent Sam monument triggered the protest that toppled the statue was found guilty Monday by an Orange County judge.
However, Maya Little, who defaced the statue April 30 by pouring blood and ink on it, will not be punished, District Court Judge Samantha Cabe ruled.
A mob, which claimed to be demonstrating in support of Little, pulled the statue off its pedestal in August, just as students returned to start the fall semester.
Little’s defense attorney, Scott Holmes, argued that Silent Sam, which stood on a pedestal on campus for 105 years before protesters toppled the statue in August, is a form of “hate speech.”
“The facts will show that what sits as monument to the Confederacy at the front door of UNC-Chapel Hill is government hate speech that violates the Constitution,” Holmes said during his opening remarks.
Meanwhile, the prosecutors’ evidence included testimony from two UNC police officers. Video footage from the body-worn camera of Lt. Jeffery Mosher shows Little pouring paint on Silent Sam. In the video, Little says she wiped ink and blood on the statue.
In the video, protesters can be heard chanting, “This racist statue has got to go.” They also chanted, “Sam is Silent. We are loud. Sam is shameful. We are proud.”
Little, a 26-year-old doctoral student studying history, took the stand in her own defense Monday.
“Over the last year I have spent about two hours a day, every day, advocating for removal of the monument,” she said.
Holmes had issued subpoenas to UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt and Police Chief Jeff McCracken. But Cabe sided Monday with the North Carolina attorney general’s office, which argued that Folt and McCracken did not have adequate notice to appear in court this week. Cabe also said other witnesses can provide the information Little’s defense was seeking.
Josh Plates, a supervisor for exterior maintenance at UNC, said it took two hours on April 30, and then two additional days, for a total of nine people to use power washing-tools and wire brushes to remove the ink and blood. It cost about $4,048, Plates said.
Little also faces Honor Court charges at UNC.
Supporters of Little gathered outside the Orange County Courthouse early Monday morning before court began. They set up signs that said “Free Food for Anti-Racists” and “The Revolution is a Breakfast Party!”
Before walking into court, Little said her supporters were there because institutions, including UNC-Chapel Hill, have failed them.
“They have failed to stop white supremacy,” Little said. “They have failed to remove it from campus and now they are punishing the people who have fought against it.”
In interviews with the media, Little has talked about why on April 30 she vandalized the controversial monument, which protesters toppled four months later. Her actions were shared via Facebook Live.
“I went to Silent Sam. I poured my blood and red ink on the statue,” Little told The News & Observer last spring. “Without that context of what it was built on, which is violence toward black people, it is not a historical object. It is missing its history. It is sanitized.”
UNC officials are now trying to decide what’s next for Silent Sam. A 2015 state law prevents the removal of monuments on public property without the state historical commission’s approval.
Holmes, a North Carolina Central University law professor and supervising attorney of the school’s Civil Litigation Clinic, has been representing for free individuals charged in social movements for years as part of his private practice.
His clients include those charged with toppling the Durham statue in 2017 and those charged in the Silent Sam case as well.
(c)2018 The Herald-Sun (Durham, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.