Silent Sam protest leads to seven arrests
Silent Sam Protesters Image by Rodney Dunning via Flickr and a CC license

Seven were arrested at a rally protesting the topping of the "Silent Sam" Confederate monument at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Those arrested were charged with assault, destruction of property, inciting a riot, and resisting officers. None of those arrested were students of the university.

More than 100 people showed up at the site of the monument on Saturday. The crowd largely consisted of counter protesters, though a handful of people carrying confederate battle flags did appear.

The university itself had warned students to avoid the protest.

The protest itself was largely peaceful, though some minor clashes did occur.

The "Silent Sam" monument went up on the campus in 1913, and depicts a Confederate soldier brandishing a rifle. The statue's designer, John A. Wilson, depicted "Sam" without ammunition to fire his gun, hence why he is "silent." He was essentially meant to commemorate the over 1,000 students and faculty of the school who fought in the civil war.

Nevertheless, at the unveiling of the statue, Julian Carr, a local industrialist, spoke on behalf of white supremacy, underscoring the themes of the civil war.

The presence of "Silent Sam" on the campus has been controversial since at least the 1960s, and the monument has long been the site of demonstrations. The school has remained firm that they would not remove "Silent Sam." claiming state law prohibited the removal of the statue.

Protesters toppled “Silent Sam” on Monday night. That led to one arrest, for resisting arrest and concealing one's face. The statue itself has been hauled away.

Recent protests over Confederate monuments began after the 2015 shooting of nine parishioners in a predominately black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The killer, Dylan Roof, was seen in photos after the killing posing with a Confederate battle flag, leading to calls to remove the banner from the South Carolina state capitol.

The majority of such monuments went up across the south and the rest of the United States in the 20th century, as both a way to sanitize the aims the Civil War as well as reinforce the segregation movement of the mid-century.

Those who champion the monuments have argued that removing them will erase American history, and lead to further removals, a slippery slope argument. President Trump, for one, chimed in on this via Twitter some time back, saying, "This week, it is Robert E. Lee and, this week, Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"

This is also viewed as a part of the reason behind the "Unite the Right" rally in 2017, where white supremacists, rebranded as the "Alt-Right," chanted, "you will not replace us." Those protests led to the death of one counter protester, Heather Heyer, and the injuries of several others.

For now, "Silent Sam" remains off his pedestal. The university has not disclosed any plans to reinstall the monument.