CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Students staging an around-the-clock protest against a Confederate statue at the University of North Carolina were joined by hundreds of supporters Thursday after police took away picnic tables and other equipment used for the sit-in.
Police oversaw the removal around 9 a.m. of the tables, tarps, signs and other belongings used by the protesters who have been sitting and sleeping for more than a week at the statue known as Silent Sam. The sit-in grew out of an anti-statue demonstration in the aftermath of a violent rally earlier this month in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The organizers vowed to continue their activism, but announced late Thursday that the sit-in was ending after the police sweep.
At midafternoon, hundreds marched across campus to Silent Sam as part of a previously planned rally that was also decrying proposed changes to the school's Center for Civil Rights.
"The statue is still standing here, so we still have a lot of work to do," said student Tahj Warren, addressing the crowd with a bullhorn. "But the fact that we're standing together means that we are powerful together."
Another student organizer, Gabrielle Johnson, said small groups of about six students have been taking turns spending the night around the statue. Supporters have brought them hot food and water, but others stopped by to make threatening statements — an unnerving prospect despite police watching from nearby.
"I'm not saying we couldn't get real rest out here, but it's a stressful situation being out here in the open," Johnson said.
University officials warned students on Wednesday that belongings would be removed the next day. The university issued a statement that the items violated campus policy restricting temporary structures and signs. The university statement said that "we have a responsibility to maintain the cleanliness and order of all campus open spaces and grounds."
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