A few hundred demonstrators gathered Sunday at the Silent Sam statue, a memorial to Confederate soldiers, on the University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill campus violent clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Va. turned deadly on Saturday. Travis Long tlong@newsobserver.com
A few hundred demonstrators gathered Sunday at the Silent Sam statue, a memorial to Confederate soldiers, on the University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill campus violent clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Va. turned deadly on Saturday. Travis Long tlong@newsobserver.com

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Chapel Hill mayor wants Silent Sam removed from UNC campus

August 18, 2017 06:33 PM

UPDATED August 18, 2017 10:40 PM

CHAPEL HILL

The mayor wants UNC-Chapel Hill’s Silent Sam Confederate statue removed because it “presents a clear and present danger” to the campus and town, according to a letter from the mayor to UNC Chancellor Carol Folt.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger wrote to Folt Thursday, asking her to petition the state’s historical commission to have the statue removed and placed in storage. She said in light of the toppling of a statue in downtown Durham and the damage to a Robert E. Lee statue at Duke Chapel, the statue presents a danger to students on campus and the Chapel Hill community.

Silent Sam, a statue of a Confederate soldier on UNC-Chapel Hill campus.
News & Observer file photo

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A 2015 state law prohibits the removal of historic statues from public property, but it does allow for an entity to take “appropriate measures” to preserve a monument, Hemminger wrote.

“Right now is such a time,” Hemminger wrote. “The possibility of a breach of the peace is high, and with it the likelihood that Silent Sam could suffer substantial damage. This circumstance certainly calls for the University to be able to take the proactive step of removing the statue from harm’s way.”

She added: “I believe such a petition is in order, and that it is in the interest of the Town as well as the University for you to ask permission to remove the statue, in order to avert what could become a situation that could easily get out of hand.”

Late Friday, a UNC spokeswoman, Joanne Peters, said, “we have received the letter and will continue to work with the town to do everything possible to protect the safety of our campus and the community.” She did not say whether a decision had been made to petition the state for the statue’s removal.

A protest at Silent Sam is planned for Tuesday night, according to a flier circulated on social media. The flier referred to the demonstration as “The first day of Silent Sam’s last semester.” Also, a change.org petition this week asked the UNC Board of Governors to remove the statue. It had attracted 3,800 signatures by late Friday.

Students protest Silent Sam at UNC University Day celebration

Students protested the Confederate statue known as Silent Sam on Monday, interrupting the University Day ceremony commemorating UNC-Chapel Hill's 222nd birthday.

Jane Stancill jstancill@newsobserver.com

The Confederate soldier statue at the edge of UNC’s campus has long been a site of protests, including last Sunday when a black hood was placed over the monument a day after the racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Silent Sam defaced for second time in six weeks

Sometime overnight, the phrase "Who is Sandra Bland?" was painted on the base of the statue, which honors school alumni who fought for the Confederacy and died in the Civil War. Bland, a Texas woman, died while in police custody after a traffic stop in 2015. Video by Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill