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UNC leaders: SBI investigating “Silent Sam” toppling

Late Tuesday UNC System Board Chair Harry Smith, UNC System President Margaret Spellings, UNC-Chapel Hill Trustee Chair Haywood Cochrane and UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt issued a joint statement on the toppling of the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument at the university’s Chapel Hill campus.

The statement came after an initial Monday morning statement from Spellings and Smith.

“Since the Confederate Monument was brought down last night, many have questioned how police officers responded to protesters and how the University managed the event,” the university leaders said in a written statement.  “Safety is always paramount, but at no time did the administration direct the officers to allow protesters to topple the monument. During the event, we rely on the experience and judgment of law enforcement to make decisions on the ground, keeping safety as the top priority.”

“Last night’s rally was unlike any previous event on our campus,” the statement went on to say. “This protest was carried out in a highly organized manner and included a number of people unaffiliated with the University. While we respect that protesters have the right to demonstrate, they do not have the right to damage state property.”

“We have asked the SBI to assist the police to fully investigate the incident, and they have agreed,” the statement read. “We do not support lawlessness, and we will use the full breadth of state and University processes to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

“The safety and security of the students and community entrusted to us have been and will remain our top priority,” the statement read. “While we are grateful that no one, including our police officers, was injured during last night’s protest, we will never condone mob actions and always encourage peaceful and respectful demonstrations on our campus.”

This time last year, on August 20, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt forwarded a memo from UNC Police Chief Jeff McCracken to UNC Board of Governors.

In the memo, McCracken said he believed Silent Sam, as the only Confederate monument on a UNC campus, is a magnet for “extremist” groups and that students may be caught in the fight between these groups. He also warned that it would only be a matter of time before students tried to remove it themselves. He said the statue poses an “uniquely dangerous situation” and asked for any help possible to “mitigate” it.

The university recently revealed it spent $390,000 last year securing the statue.

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