In a move aimed at dismantling statues dedicated to the state’s racist history, a group of roughly 250 protesters gathered at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Monday night to tear down a Confederate monument known as “Silent Sam,” according to multiple reports.
The statue, erected in 1913 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, had been closely watched ever since it was vandalized last year, according to the Associated Press. But despite police presence and money dedicated to protecting it, protesters encircled the statue, surrounded it with banners, and then toppled it before authorities could do anything.
“I feel liberated—like I’m a part of something big,” freshman Natalia Walker told The Daily Tar Heel, UNC Chapel Hill’s student newspaper. It’s literally my fourth day here. This is the biggest thing I’ve ever been a part of in my life.”
The crowd initially got together around 7 p.m. for a series of speakers, and then went to the university’s quad. About two hours into the demonstration, the protesters pulled the statue down, according to AP, and then proceeded to kick it while it was on the ground. In footage of the incident taken by NBC News, demonstrators can be seen loudly cheering over the destruction of Silent Sam.
Meanwhile, the News & Observer reports that bystanders sporting Confederate flag T-shirts witnessed the protest.
Prior to protesters toppling Silent Sam, North Carolina had 170 Confederate monuments within its borders—the fifth-most in the United States, according to MSN.com.
“The monument has been divisive for years, and its presence has been a source of frustration for many people not only on our campus but throughout the community,” UNC Chapel Hill tweeted on Monday. “However, last night’s actions were unlawful and dangerous, and we are very fortunate no one was injured. The police are investigating the vandalism and assessing the full extent of the damage.”
Questions about any arrests or charges pressed sent to Chapel Hill Police by Oxygen.com were not returned by press time.
[Photo: Demonstrators rally for the removal of a Confederate statue coined Silent Sam on the campus of the University of Chapel Hill on August 22, 2017. Getty Images.]