UNC System Board of Governors Chair Harry Smith and UNC System President Margaret Spellings responded Tuesday morning to the toppling of “Silent Sam,” the confederate statue on the Chapel Hill campus.
“We have been in touch with UNC-Chapel Hill Trustee Chair Cochrane and Chancellor Folt both last night and this morning about the removal of the Silent Sam statue on UNC-CH’s campus,” Smith and Spellings said in a joint statement. “Campus leadership is in collaboration with campus police, who are pulling together a timeline of the events, reviewing video evidence, and conducting interviews that will inform a full criminal investigation.”
“The safety and security of our students, faculty, and staff are paramount,” the statement read.”And the actions last evening were unacceptable, dangerous, and incomprehensible. We are a nation of laws—and mob rule and the intentional destruction of public property will not be tolerated.”
The toppling of the statue by protesters came after the UNC Board of Governors last month declined to even discuss petitioning the North Carolina Historical Commission to remove it. The statue has been a source of tension and controversy for more than 50 years, with calls to remove it reaching a fever pitch over the last year.
Chancellor Folt released her own statement early Tuesday via Twitter.
Students, faculty, staff and community members who have been part of the movement to remove the statue replied to Folt directly on Twitter.
The Undergraduate Executive Branch of the UNC-Chapel Hill Student Government also released their own statement. In it, student leaders called the toppling of the statue the correction of “a moral and historical wrong that needed to be righted if we were ever to move forward as a University.”
“Last night, they tore down Silent Sam,” the statement said of protesters. “They were right to do so.”
Democratic state legislators took to Twitter to say it was a shame action on the statue had not happened sooner and that legislation filed by Rep. Graig Meyer, Rep. Verla Insko and Rep. Graig Meyer that would have moved it was not given a hearing.
Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger released his own statement calling the protesters a “violent mob” and calling for the reestablishment of the rule of law.