The destruction of a Confederate statue in the heart of North Carolina’s flagship university by hundreds of protesters on Monday night was “unlawful and dangerous,” university leaders said.
Carol L. Folt, chancellor of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, condemned the actions of a crowd of protestors who took down the memorial known as “Silent Sam,” which was erected in 1913.
“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,” she said in a statement released early Tuesday. “However, last night’s actions were unlawful and dangerous, and we are very fortunate that no one was injured.”
Protests over the UNC stature have flared in the past year with many decrying the memorial as a symbol of a racist heritage.
On Monday evening, a crowd gathered across the street from the university’s plaza for a series of speakers before heading over to the quadrangle. Then, about two hours into the protest, a group surrounded the statue and pulled it down.
Once on the ground, demonstrators kicked it and cheered.
Shortly after 10 p.m., a dozen officers surrounded the fallen statue, which was eventually covered with a tarp next to its empty pedestal.
Many students, faculty and alumni have called the statue a racist image and asked officials to remove it, though some argued it was a tribute to fallen ancestors. Protesters responded to the assertion that the statue wasn't a symbol of white power by reading from its 1913 dedication speech, by tobacco magnate Julian Carr, which praised Confederate veterans for terrorizing former slaves and making sure "the purest strain of the Anglo Saxon is to be found in the 13 Southern States."
UNC leaders, including Folt, had previously said state law prevented the school from removing the statue.
Gov. Roy Cooper, who had called for removing Silent Sam and other rebel symbols on public land, argued Monday night that demonstrators took the wrong approach to removing the statue.
“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,” said a tweet from his official account.
One person was arrested and charged with resisting arrest and for concealing one’s face during a public rally, WRAL reported. However, no other arrests were made.
It is unclear if any charges could be brought against the protesters.
UNC-Chapel Hill police referred all questions to the university's media relations department.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.