Educational and political leaders are condemning Monday night’s toppling of “Silent Sam,” a century-old Confederate memorial on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s campus.
UNC System President Margaret Spellings said in a statement Tuesday that a full criminal investigation is being conducted after a group of about 250 protesters used ropes and banners to pull down the bronze figure of an anonymous rebel soldier — erected in 1913. The protesters argued that the statue was a racist image that perpetuated white supremacy.
Spellings said the school’s leadership is in collaboration with campus police who are pulling together a timeline of events, reviewing video evidence and conducting interviews.
So far, UNC campus police said one person faces criminal charges in the incident.
Ian Broadhead, 27, of Watauga County is charged with resisting or obstructing an officer, and for wearing a hood or mask on public property. A campus police spokesman said Broadhead is not a student at the school.
In her statement, Spellings said the safety of students, faculty and staff is paramount and condemned the protesters who took part in toppling the statue.
“The actions last evening were unacceptable, dangerous, and incomprehensible,” Spellings said. “We are a nation of laws — and mob rule and the intentional destruction of public property will not be tolerated.”
UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt acknowledged the controversial presence of "Silent Sam" on campus, saying it was “divisive” and a “source of frustration for many.” But she denounced the actions of protesters, calling the toppling “unlawful and dangerous.”
Like Folt, Gov. Roy Cooper also said he understood that “many people are frustrated by the pace of change” and said he “shares their frustration.”
“But violent destruction of public property has no place in our communities,” Cooper added.
State Senate Leader Sen. Phil Berger, a Republican lawmaker, called protesters a “violent mob.”
“Many of the wounds of racial injustice that still exist in our state and country were created by violent mobs and I can say with certainty that violent mobs won’t heal those wounds,” Berger said.
He added that politicians must end the “deceitful mischaracterization of violent riots as ‘rallies’ ” and reestablish the rule of law.
State House Speaker Tim Moore also strongly denounced the protesters, saying "there is no place for the destruction of property on our college campuses or in any North Carolina communities." He added that those who were involved in the toppling should be arrested and prosecuted to make clear the message that "mob rule and acts of violence will not be tolerated in our state."
Monday night’s demonstration followed years of controversy and protest at UNC surrounding "Silent Sam." Activism around the monument gained momentum over the past year after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., last year. Protesters called for the removal of "Silent Sam," but UNC officials said at the time that state law prohibited any immediate changes.
The statue came down around 9:15 Monday night. The statue was eventually covered with a tarp and taken away in a truck.