News

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.

News

UNC President, Board of Governors chair: Silent Sam toppling “unacceptable, dangerous, and incomprehensible”

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.

News

Protesters topple UNC’s “Silent Sam” in evening demonstration

Protesters toppled the Confederate monument known as “Silent Sam” on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Monday night.

At a demonstration that began just after 7:30 p.m., several hundred protesters marched to the statue, which has been the focus of intense controversy over the last year.

The toppling of the monument, the only Confederate statue on any of UNC’s campuses, comes after the UNC Board of Governors last month declined to even discuss petitioning the North Carolina Historical Commission to remove it.

The commission meets Wednesday morning to discuss whether to remove three other Confederate monuments from downtown Raleigh.

Ford Porter, press secretary for Gov. Roy Cooper, released the following statement late Monday:

“Governor Cooper has been in contact with local law enforcement and UNC officials regarding tonight’s rally and appreciates their efforts to keep people safe. The Governor understands that many people are frustrated by the pace of change and he shares their frustration, but violent destruction of public property has no place in our communities.”

UNC also released a statement Monday night.

“Tonight’s actions were dangerous, and we are very fortunate that no one was injured,” the statement said. “We are investigating the vandalism and assessing the full extent of the damage.”

News

Five former NC governors stand against amendments

All five living former North Carolina governors spoke out against two proposed amendments to the state constitution Monday.

“This is not about partisan politics,” former North Carolina Governor Jim Martin said at a press conference Monday. “It’s about power politics – and it must be stopped.”

Martin organized all five living North Carolina governors for the press event at the old State Capitol building Monday to denounce two proposed amendments to the state constitution.

Martin and fellow Republican Pat McCrory joined Democrats Jim Hunt, Mike Easley and Bev Perdue in condemning two amendments they say pose a threat to separation of powers.

The amendments in question – two of six on the ballot this November – shift power from the governor to the Republican dominated legislature. That’s a move opposed by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat – but part of a trend that began under his Republican predecessor, Pat McCrory.

One amendment would shift appointments to the state elections and ethics board to from the governor to the legislature – and open the door for the legislature to take over appointments to hundreds of boards and commissions.

McCrory successfully sued legislative leaders from his own party over that issue during his one term as governor, which ended in 2016. Having lost the legal argument, McCrory said, legislators are now trying to get around a near unanimous decision by the N.C. Supreme Court by changing the constitution.

The goal is nothing less than to “strip our executive branch of its rights and responsibilities,” McCrory said – at the expense of a separation of powers that is essential to both national and state government.

“This is what our Founding Fathers were so brilliant in doing,”McCrory said. “Creating checks and balance, the separation of powers.”

McCrory said he had a suggestion for legislators who want the responsibilities of the state’s governor.

“Have the courage to run for governor and win,” McCrory said. “Earn it.”

Perdue said she was dumbfounded upon reading the proposed amendments. The lawmakers should ask themselves what their goal is with them, she said.

“Everything that goes on here should be open, transparent and should be about the people of North Carolina,” Perdue said. “Does it make our lives any better? Does it help our families? Or is it all about making me Boss Hogg?”

Easley predicted that if the amendments pass, the state will be tied up in endless lawsuits. Investors would see it as an unstable “hornet’s nest” in which they wouldn’t be interested in doing business, he said.

“It’s remarkable how poorly these amendments have been drafted,” Easley said. “It would take years upon years for the courts to dissect them and tell the public what they mean.”

“When somebody asks you to vote for a change in your constitution, you have the right to know what the amendment is,” Easley said. “And if you don’t know, vote no.”

Asked if they were worried about their relationship with the GOP in opposing the amendments, Republicans McCrory and Martin said they were not. They felt it was their duty to oppose the amendments no matter who advanced them, they said, and hoped some GOP legislators would join them in urging voters to reject them in November.

In a joint statement Monday afternoon, Speaker of the House Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and President Pro Tempore of the Senate Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) dismissed the former governors’ criticisms.

“While it’s not surprising former governors oppose checks and balances on the unilateral authority of their office,” the legislative leaders said in the statement, “We are confident the people will support a more accountable approach to filling judicial vacancies and approve a bipartisan balance on critical boards like the state’s ethics and elections commission over a system of purely political control.”

News

Senators taking aim at insurance companies behind bail bond industry

If you’ve been following Policy Watch’s coverage of the for-profit cash bail industry and the movement to reform it, you’ll want to check out this week’s story on bail industry backers in the insurance industry from The Marshall Project.

From the piece:

Two senators want to shine some light on the business. On Friday, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, sent a letter to 22 insurance companies requesting details of their finances and their relationships with the bail bond agents they underwrite.

The piece also goes into the way in which the movement to eliminate cash bail is impacting what has, for decades, been a growing industry.

After years of uninterrupted growth, bail bond premiums fell more than 3 percent in 2017 compared to the year before. The report forecast more decline as more laws change and lawsuits prevail.

“Ultimately, in states where reform measures significantly diminish — or eliminate entirely — the need for defendants to post cash bail, the business of bail bond agents and bail bond insurance specialists as currently constituted will likely cease to exist,” the report said.

Read the full piece here.