News

Lawmakers, citizens speak out against Affordable Care Act lawsuit

Lawmakers joined patient advocates and people sharing personal health care stories Wednesday to speak out against the the Trump administration lawsuit seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

The event, held outside Sen. Thom Tillis’ office in downtown Raleigh, was part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour, which seeks to highlight what the group says is the danger to more than 100 million Americans protected by the ACA.

“If the Trump administration and the coalition of Republican-led states backing this suit have their way, the courts will do what President Trump and the U.S. Senate have tried and failed to do — overturn the Affordable Care Act,” said Felicia Burnett, Healthcare Director for MomsRising.

“This will threaten protections for 130 million people living with pre-existing conditions,” Burnett said. “People like me, many of you and moms all across this country.”

Burnett shared the story of her son Ethan, who was born with a vascular tumor that required chemotherapy and an external port placed in his heart that needed constant monitoring to avoid infection. Burnett had to leave her job and forego her health insurance to care for him.

“I am one of countless parents in North Carolina who can say that our Medicaid program literally save my child’s life,” said Burnett.

But once Ethan got better, Burnett found it difficult to find insurance on the individual marketplace because she had a pre-existing condition and a gap in coverage.

The Affordable Care Act changed all that, she said. Insurance companies could no longer refuse to offer coverage to her family because of she and Ethan’s pre-existing conditions.

But that guarantee — that Americans won’t find themselves denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition — isn’t the Affordable Care Act’s only virtue, Burnett said. It also prevents insurers from charging women more than men for coverage, prevents caps that deny coverage when patients who have paid into their plan need it most and allows young people to stay on their parents’ health insurance coverage until age 26.

“If the Trump lawsuit succeeds, all that goes away,” Burnett said. “More than 20 million Americans — including a half a million North Carolinians — will lose their health insurance.”

Read more

News

Students, community celebrate one year without “Silent Sam” Confederate monument

Hundreds gathered on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill to celebrate the first anniversary of the toppling of the Confederate monument known as “Silent Sam.”

Hundreds of students and community members gathered Tuesday night to celebrate the first anniversary of the toppling of the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill.

Anti-racist activists led the large assembled crowd from Peace and Justice Plaza to McCorkle Place, where they stopped at the former site of the Confederate monument, took a moment of silence at the Unsung Founders memorial honoring the Black labor — slave and free — that helped build the university and called for the removal of the names of slave holders and white supremacists from university buildings at the Old Well.

“We celebrate not only the toppling of a symbol but the toppling of white supremacy,” Raul Arce Jimenez told the crowd at the now barren site that was once the home of “Silent Sam.”

Jimenez is still facing charges in the toppling of the statue.

“What used to be here doesn’t need to be here,” Jimenez said to applause. “So today we celebrate, as we did last year when it came down, the absence of a symbol of white supremacy. This symbol stood for more than a hundred years, glaring down on black and brown students as they walked by. It stood here to welcome students and visitors. But I ask, ‘Who felt welcome as they walked by this statue? Who felt accepted as they walked by the grotesque reminder that people fought so people could not be free?’ It was a symbol of white supremacy and who tore it down?”

The crowd replied with shouts of “We did!”

Read more

News

A year without “Silent Sam” at UNC

Silent Sam in its former site at McCorkle Place at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Today marks one year since the toppling of the Confederate monument known as “Silent Sam” on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The monument, erected in 1913 as part of a what historians call a new wave of white supremacist sentiment, was torn down by protesters after decades of controversy and attempts to legally secure its removal. Its damaged remains are now kept by the school in an undisclosed location as its return to campus becomes increasingly unlikely.

Conflicts over the toppling of the statue and how to respond played into deep tensions with the UNC Board of Governors that led to the resignations of both former UNC System President Margaret Spellings and former UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt.

The men who replaced them — Dr. Bill Roper as interim UNC System President and Kevin Gusciewicz as interim chancellor at UNC-Chapel Hill — have both gone on record saying the statue should not return to the campus.

With UNC Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith reversing position to oppose the statue’s return, there is no longer even a timeline for any decision on the monument’s future.

A year on, the toppling of “Silent Sam” seems to have had a profound impact not only on the campus and its politics but on the continuing struggle over Confederate statues. Earlier this year the city of Winston-Salem removed a similar statue despite objections by the Daughters of the Confederacy. On Monday night the Chatham County Board of Commissioners voted to remove another Confederate monument in Pittsboro.

As students prepare to celebrate a year without the statue on campus tonight, it’s worth looking back at the important events leading up to and following in the wake of “Silent Sam’s” removal.

A “Silent Sam” Timeline

July 22, 2015: Former Gov. Pat McCrory signs a law making it more difficult to remove “objects of remembrance” as sentiment grows against Confederate monuments. Statues such as “Silent Sam” are voluntarily removed across the South. Others are vandalized and torn down by protesters.

August 22, 2017: Spellings emails the UNC Board of Governors a letter sent to Gov. Roy Cooper outlining concerns the “Silent Sam” Confederate statue could pose a threat to students and could, in the charged environment, be in danger of being damaged or destroyed. The letter urged Cooper to convene the N.C. Historical Commission to “take up this matter and to consider what steps should be taken, consistent with the law.” The letter was signed by Spellings, Folt, then Chairman Louis Bissette and UNC Board of Trustees Chairman Haywood Cochrane. It touched off a political firestorm and a letter signed by 15 board members criticizing Spellings for going to Cooper, a Democrat, as weakness and hand-wringing. Ultimately, the board rejects Cooper’s suggestion that danger to the campus and statue justifies its removal, despite a 2015 law passed to prevent the removal of such monuments.

May 24, 2018: Harry Smith is elected chairman of the UNC Board of Governors. Smith is one of the board members who signed the letter critical of Spellings and part of a more combative and conservative wing of the board that has had a number of public conflicts with her and Folt.

August 21, 2018: Protesters topple the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument. Board of Governors members criticize Folt and Spellings’ handling of the protests leading up to its toppling and the response to the event.

October 26, 2018: UNC System President Margaret Spellings resigns after a tenure marked with the tensions with the UNC Board of Governors. She does not deny there have been tensions but insists it is simply time for her to move on.

November 1, 2018: UNC Board of Governors announces Dr. William Roper, CEO of UNC Healthcare, as interim President of the UNC System.

December 3, 2018: UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt and the UNC Board of Trustees suggests housing the “Silent Sam” Confederate statue in a new, $5.3 million UNC history center that would also feature other items from UNC’s history and include classroom space. The center would be at the edge of the developed campus with far more security than its original site at McCorkle Place.

December 14, 2018: The Board of Governors rejects the history center plan and appoints a task force of board members to work with Folt and the UNC Board of Trustees on a new plan for the statue by mid-March.

January 14, 2019: UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt announces her resignation. In the announcement, which took the UNC Board of Governors by surprise, she also announced that she had ordered the base of the toppled Confederate statue removed from McCorkle Place. Members of the Board of Governors – including Chairman Harry Smith – condemn the order and criticize Folt not speaking with the board about stepping down.

January 15, 2019: The UNC Board of Governors accepts Folt’s resignation, but announces they will not allow her to serve until the end of the semester as she intended. Instead, they announce her last day will be January 31. The board authorizes interim UNC System President William Roper to appoint an interim chancellor as soon as he sees fit.

February 1, 2019: Roper and Interim UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Gusciewicz both go on record opposing the return of “Silent Sam” to campus.

May 22, 2019: Smith goes on record as saying that returning “Silent Sam” to campus is “not the right path.” Though the board had set multiple deadlines to announce a plan for the statue’s future, Smith said there it no longer makes sense to set arbitrary timelines on the issue.

 

News

UNC-Chapel Hill’s new Chief of Police announced, students question choice

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a new Chief of Police.

But the choice is already a controversial one.

David Perry was announced as the next UNC-Chapel Hill Chief of Police Monday.

Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz announced late Monday that David L. Perry will serve as the new assistant vice chancellor and chief of UNC Police beginning Sept. 3.

Perry comes to UNC from Florida State University, where his tenure as chief of police included criticism of the handling of two rape allegations against Jameis Winston, then FSU’s quarterback and later a player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The handling of the 2012 rape allegations and Perry’s actions specifically were criticized at the time. The controversy was the subject of reports from the New York Times and featured in the Emmy nominated documentary “The Hunting Ground,” about the epidemic of sexual assaults on American college campuses.

The Times investigation found “there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university.”

“The police did not follow the obvious leads that would have quickly identified the suspect as well as witnesses, one of whom videotaped part of the sexual encounter,” the Times report said. “After the accuser identified Mr. Winston as her assailant, the police did not even attempt to interview him for nearly two weeks and never obtained his DNA.”

Prosecutor William Meggs said the investigation was badly mishandled from the beginning. Charges were not filed. Winston was eventually cleared of violating the student conduct code by an FSU hearing in which retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Major B. Harding said he did “not find the credibility of one story substantially stronger than that of the other.”

Winston and his accuser filed civil suits against each other which were ultimately settled out of court.

The student who alleged she was raped sued FSU, claiming  the university “in concert with Tallahassee Police, took steps to ensure that Winston’s [alleged] rape of plaintiff would not be investigated either by the university or law enforcement.”

The university settled the suit for $950,000.

Winston went on to have a series of legal and disciplinary problems, including a three game suspension in 2018 for the alleged groping of a female Uber driver.

No mention of the rape investigation controversy was made in Guskiewicz’s message to the community.

“Chief Perry joins us from Florida State University and brings to Carolina a distinguished 25-year career in law enforcement and campus safety,” the statement read. “He has embraced community policing and has demonstrated success in building relationships between campus police and the community. Through my many conversations with him, I know he is looking forward to expanding that philosophy at Carolina and is committed to ensuring his department has access to the latest in law enforcement training, education, technology and professional development.”

Perry will oversee a department that currently has 53 full-time, sworn police officers.

Prominent student activists, already frustrated with police policies on campus, are decrying the choice online.

 

News

Students, activists to celebrate anniversary of Silent Sam’s toppling

Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the toppling of the Confederate monument known as “Silent Sam” on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill.

A lot has happened since then.

The damaged statue is currently being held in an undisclosed but secure location, according to the school. While its future is still uncertain, students and community activists are planning a party to celebrate a year without it.

As students return to classes this week, Defend UNC and Take Action Chapel Hill are throwing an anniversary party from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Peace and Justice Plaza on Franklin Street, across from where the statue once stood.

Nearly 200 people have already signaled they will attend on the event’s Facebook page.

In related news, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners meets tonight to discuss the fate of the Confederate Monument that stands outside of the Chatham County Historic Courthouse.

Like “Silent Sam,” that statue was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who are arguing that because it was a gift it belongs to the county and is covered by a 2015 law meant to prevent the removal of such statues.

The group failed to prevent the removal of a similar statue in Winston-Salem earlier this year.