4/24 – Students Strike Back Against Racism & Police Violence

Spread the word on social media – RSVP at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1050702758387453/

By offering police protection and free parking to racists while beating and arresting anti-racist students, UNC has made itself complicit in white supremacy. In September, we rallied against racism and police brutality. The administration locked the doors to South Building and refused to hear our demands. Since that time, UNC Police have: 1) protected a violent racist who called for “lone wolf” attacks against UNC, 2) lied under oath to get an anti-racist undergraduate sentenced to jail time, 3) fabricated charges against an anti-racist graduate student, and 4) allowed armed white supremacists to wander campus for a full hour before shaking their hands and letting them leave without consequence. The editorial boards of both the Daily Tar Heel and the Carolina Political Review have condemned UNC’s complicity with white supremacy.

We do not tolerate white supremacy when it marches on our campus, and we must not accept it within UNC’s bureaucracy. At 1:30pm on Wednesday April 24, students will walk out of class and meet on the steps of Wilson Library to demand an end to this shameful collaboration.

 

We demand that UNC: 

  1. Stop harassing, spying on, and arbitrarily arresting anti-racist protesters.

We demand that interim Chancellor Guskiewicz stop the persecution of anti-racist protesters, including the use of surveillance and undercover infiltration techniques. We demand the firing of any officers who give false testimony.  

During 2017’s student occupation of Silent Sam, UNC Police deployed an undercover officer to surveil anti-racist protestors who had been threatened by white supremacists. FOIA records have shown that plain-clothes police have also been deployed at several protests and on-campus anti-racist events and gatherings. The After Action Report states plain-clothes officers were present in student protests as recently as August. Police showed up at a UNC student defendant’s academic department and demanded that staff hand over information about him, in violation of the law.

Based exclusively on the testimony Sgt. Svetlana Bostelman, an Orange County judge sentenced an anti-racist student to 24 hours in jail. Video Evidence proves she lied under oath. We call for her immediate resignation or firing.

  1. Stop coordinating with white supremacists.

We demand that interim Chancellor Guskiewicz prohibit any further coordination between UNC (including UNC Police) and white supremacist groups.

During two white supremacist demonstrations at UNC, we have seen UNC Police close the Morehead Planetarium parking lot to everyone except white supremacists, and then escort the white supremacists onto and off of our campus, protecting them by hitting us with their bikes and bodies. Among the racists who received this protection was Nancy Rushton McCorkle, who later desecrated Unsung Founders memorial with urine and racial slurs. In service to white supremacists, UNC Police have left students bloody, bruised, and fearful for our lives. We demand an immediate end to this shameful collaboration.

  1. Lift the “no trespass” orders against anti-racist protestors.

We demand that interim Chancellor Guskiewicz lift the “no trespass” orders levied against Maya Little and other anti-racists, and we demand that he publicly call on District Attorney Jim Woodall, the police, and the State Bureau of Investigation to drop charges and end investigations against all anti-racists arrested during demonstrations at UNC.

There has been overwhelming local and national support for the actions of UNC anti-racist protestors, including from our student government leaders, over 400 UNC Black faculty members, and many UNC academic departments and student groups. Only by calling for an end to criminal proceedings against us can interim Chancellor Guskiewicz begin to join his community on the right side of history.

  1. Stop police brutality and excessive force.

We demand that interim Chancellor Guskiewicz forbid police from carrying guns, chemical weapons, and tasers to protests on UNC’s campus, and that he issue a statement condemning police excessive use of force against students.

This academic year, police have thrown us through the air and onto the ground. They have put us in chokeholds so we couldn’t breathe, and told us they didn’t care when we begged them to stop. They have manhandled us, carrying our terrified bodies through the air and then cynically charging us with resisting arrest. During one white supremacist demonstration, police, without warning, pepper-sprayed students and the media. During another, police held tasers to protestors’ throats. During another, one officer reached for his gun. Anti-racist protestors know we are not safe while police are armed, and expect UNC Administration to speak out against what has happened to us.  

  1. Stop inviting outside police agencies onto our campus.

We demand that interim Chancellor Guskiewicz ban the UNC Police Department’s collaboration with violent police agitators.

During white supremacist demonstrations, we have been harmed by police from as far away as Asheville, Wilmington, and Greensboro, and as close as Chapel Hill. Greensboro Police, infamous for their consistent collaboration with the Klan, were particularly violent towards us. Capt. Jonathan Franks deployed pepper spray against us for no reason, and acted with such excessive violence that we saw him being held back by fellow officers. Far from apologizing, Greensboro Police congratulated themselves on a job well done. We know that the only “outside agitators” on our campus are those UNC Police themselves are inviting. This must end.

  1. Allow community-based investigation and accountability in response to police collaboration with armed white supremacists on UNC Campus.

We demand that interim Chancellor Guskiewicz implement the demands of Unsafe @ UNC, put forward in this letter.

In March 2019, white supremacists brought guns to campus (a felony). Although Chapel Hill Police warned UNC Police in advance that the racists were armed, UNC Police allowed them to wander campus for an hour before shaking their hands and politely asking them to leaving, stating, “if you’re just passing through, we won’t say too much about the weapons.” UNC administrators failed to issue an alert.

We call on interim Chancellor Guskiewicz to implement the demands of Unsafe @ UNC, issued following his lackluster response.

 

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Resources for UNC Affiliated Students, Workers, and Faculty on Current Boycott of Dean Guskiewicz Meetings

We return to campus in 2019 after a successful TA action built on decades of antiracist organizing by students and workers at UNC-Chapel Hill. The action (1) stopped the creation of a multi-million dollar Confederate memorial hall that would have brought Silent Sam back to campus and (2) rejected the proposal for a militarized mobile police force, both which continued to place Black and other people of color at the University in danger of white supremacist violence. The action garnered support from undergraduate students, graduate students, workers, faculty, and their counterparts across the nation, as well as student and professional athletes.

In the wake of this antiracist movement, University administrators have scrambled to create a dozen discrete meetings for graduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences and scheduled them throughout the second and third weeks of January. Two meetings were scheduled before campus resumes from winter break.

There is historic precedent at UNC-Chapel Hill for administrators to divide and conquer antiracist movement building on campus. We therefore recognize the series of meetings, delivered under the guise of “enriching the graduate experience,” as a tactic to squash our collective power and distract from the antiracist conversation by baiting graduate students with hollow attempts to minimally increase only the lowest graduate worker stipends.

We will not be bought.

In this post you will find resources about the meetings and current events regarding the antiracist movement at the University. Here we include:

  1. A letter to Dean Guskiewicz, Chancellor Folt, and members of the Board of Governors to hold a single, interdepartmental meeting. The letter, delivered January 4th, 2109, was signed by 189 graduate students from 39 departments at the University .
  2. An informational flier that explains why the meetings are happening now. (Hint: It’s not because the University administrators are suddenly aware of the grossly inadequate stipends we receive.)
  3. A handout on divide and conquer tactics with examples from past antiracist movements at the University.
  4. Calendar of scheduled CAS meetings.

To follow the meetings in realtime, please visit @strikedownsam on Twitter.

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Statement by StrikeDownSam Anti-Racist Coalition on Withheld Grades and BOG Resolution

We, the StrikeDownSam Anti-Racist Coalition, are a group of students and faculty who came together in opposition to the Board of Trustees’ (BOT) “Recommendation for the Disposition and Preservation of the Confederate Monument” known as Silent Sam, released December 3, 2018. We have demonstrated our rejection of the Report by withholding final grades. The safety and welfare of students, faculty, and staff was not among the “highly pertinent aspects thoroughly considered” in the Report (page 3). Although we welcome the Board of Governors’ (BOG) rejection of the BOT’s Report, their decision does not guarantee a satisfactory long-term resolution. The Confederate monument must never return to campus in any shape or form nor a center to its history be erected. We further express here our right to freely assemble and to practice our freedom of speech on a matter of great public concern.

Two aspects of the original Report violate our collective sense of ethical and moral leadership:

  1. The lack of an accurate representation of the history of UNC. While the Report calls for a $5.3 million center “to teach the history of America’s first public university,” the words white supremacy, Jim Crow, slavery,and African American do not appear anywhere in the document (p. 5).
  2. The plans for further militarization of our campus. The Report stated that “the Safety Panel recommended that additional investments in support of the UNC Police will be needed to deal effectively with large, aggressive protest actions” (p. 8). This potential plan is unwarranted, dangerous, and unacceptable. It is clear from the language of the Report that such an action is designed to quell (and violently) “civil action.”

What the Report indicates is that the University is prepared to engage an already exhausted faculty and student body in another protracted debate about white supremacy and its legacy on this campus. This represents an extraction of our labor without compensation and with little regard for our right to pursue happiness as we go about our work on this campus. The graduate and faculty action to withhold the reporting of grades has been a rejection of such extraction. Given (1) the Report’s attempt to shroud our “history” in white supremacy and the Report’s lack of transparency around UNC community outrage and pain about that legacy and (2) the Report’s recommendation of a militarized police presence that would only endanger the lives of people of color on campus, we announced we would withhold our labor.

The BOG’s rejection of the Report extends the timeline for deliberation over the disposition of the Confederate monument, requiring that a revised proposal be submitted in March 2019. For the StrikeDownSam Anti-RacistCoalition, this new timeline necessitates a new strategy; we recently released all grades for the fall 2018 semester, but will be in a strong position to continue our action in spring 2019 if the BOG, BOT, or members of the University administration decide to place UNC students at risk.

In the coming semester, undergraduate and graduate students will work together with faculty to plan further actions and to continue exerting pressure on the University. We denounce the BOG resolution that aims to“prescribe minimum sanctions including suspension, termination, and expulsion for individuals who engage in unlawful activity that impacts public safety,”including “inciting riots, resisting arrest, participation in a riotous act, and other acts of violence.” It is a naked attempt to intimidate dissenting students who are routinely punished by police for peaceful assembly and protest. We will continue to work collectively until the newly constituted committee develops amore honest and humane plan for our collective future. We are unwavering in our demand for a safe learning environment and resolute in our fight to eradicate white supremacy from our campus and community.

We call on students, faculty, staff, and all members of our community to join us as we work for justice.

To stay up-to-date with the StrikeDownSam Anti-Racist Coalition or join our movement, please fill out this form with an unaffiliated email address.

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Revised Demands: 12.6.2018

We call on all UNC TAs and faculty to withhold grading final exams or assignments for the fall 2018 semester until the the following demand is met:

1. That the Board of Trustees withdraw the proposal to spend $5.3 million dollars to build a separate “indoor location” to house Silent Sam on UNC’s campus, and to create a 40- person “mobile force” at the tune of $2.2 million per year to further police student protests. We demand, instead, 1) that the statue remain off campus in accordance with expressed student and faculty demands. 2) That the BOG hold listening sessions in good faith with the campus community.

Grades will be released to the university upon meeting the aforementioned demand. Action from UNC TAs and faculty will continue into the following semester(s) until all demands are met:

2. That the Confederate monument never return to campus in any shape or form nor a center to its history be erected.

3. That the BOT disclose the “necessary changes” to campus policing outlined in the appendix of their report published on December 3rd. According to this document, they have already begun implementing these changes without consulting the university community. We demand the BOT withdraw the proposed security escalations, specifically:
The increased use of “intelligence gathering” and “protest management” by UNC Police
The formation of a 40-person “mobile force” of police to deploy in response to protests, costing $2 million per year

4. The allocation of $500,000 in equipment costs for this mobile police force4. That the University withdraw its plan to increase student fees of $65.39 for building maintenance, and instead use the $5.3 million allocated to house Silent Sam, the yearly $800,000 allocated to maintain it, and the yearly $2 million allocated for increased policing to fund clear needs, which the University consistently claims it does not have money for, namely:
The aforementioned building maintenance
Increased wages for graduate and campus workers, the majority of whom make less than a living wage
The abolition of fees for all graduate workers
Dental insurance for graduate workers, and
Reduced parking fees for all workers.

Faculty, undergraduate affiliations, staff, and workers can support us by joining the actions or not punishing us for what actions we take against an immoral and unethical institution. 

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Call to Strike in Light of Carol Folt’s Proposal to Reinstate Silent Sam at UNC

Below is the call to strike by anti-racist protestors in light of Carol Folt’s despicable proposal to UNC’s Board of Governors:

The UNC Board of Trustees (BOT) and Chancellor Carol Folt took several liberties today, both overt and covert. The overt: The BOT and Folt proposed that the University re-erect a Confederate Monument on a public university campus in 2018—155 years after enslaved people forced the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation and 153 years after the defeat of the Confederate States of America. They’ve proposed to spend $5.3 million dollars out of the University budget to house the Confederate Monument, Silent Sam, even as the administration is planning to hike student fees in order to make up a Facilities Maintenance deficit. Sadly, these outrageous proposals are in keeping with the University’s legacy of exploiting enslaved black people to build this campus and its history of racial segregation that lasted until 1955.

The covert: the BOT and Folt proposed that the University spend millions of dollars annually to increase the policing and surveillance of student and community protesters. This also fits with the University’s and Chapel Hill’s legacy of policing antiracist activists and its disregard for black bodies. This history is exemplified in the case of black Chapel Hill resident James Lewis Cates’ murder in 1970 by a white motorcycle gang in the Pit, and the University’s repression of black student protests that followed.

In no uncertain terms, Carol Folt and the BOT have proposed that UNC 1) commemorate the Confederacy, 2) further militarize policing of the UNC campus, and 3) actively restrict student, faculty, and community members’ freedom of speech.

Considering that UNC students should not be expected to continue their studies, take exams, and live on campus under this racially hostile and dangerous learning environment; that faculty across departments have signed petitions condoning student activism and condemning the University’s support of Silent Sam; and the threat that increased policing of student protests and the continued presence of a Confederate monument on campus poses to first amendment rights and physical safety, respectively, we call on all UNC TA’s and faculty to withhold grading final exams or assignments for the 2018 Fall semester until the following demands are met:

  1.     That the Board of Governors (BOG) organize a meeting and listening session with student and community anti-racist activists to discuss the fate of Silent Sam. As a result of police intimidation, undercover surveillance, and libel by University officials, the University has kept these groups from fully engaging in the ostensibly public discussions around the fate of the statue.  
  2.     That the BOT disclose the “necessary changes” to campus policing that, according to the appendix of the report they published today, they have already begun implementing, and that they withdraw the proposed security escalations, specifically:
  3.     The increased use of “intelligence gathering” and “protest management” by UNC Police
  4.     The formation of a 40-person “mobile force” of police to deploy in response to protests, costing $2 million per year
  5.     The allocation of $500,000 in equipment costs for this mobile police force
  6.     That the BOT withdraw its proposal to spend $5.3 million dollars to build a separate “indoor location” to house Silent Sam on UNC’s campus, and that the statue remain off campus.
  7.     That the University withdraw its plan to increase student fees of $65.39 for building maintenance, and to instead use the $5.3 million allocated to house Silent Sam and the yearly $2 million allocated for increased policing to 1) pay for the needed repairs 2) increase wages for graduate and campus workers 3) provide dental insurance for graduate workers, and 4) reduce parking costs for all workers.

 

We recognize that certain TA’s, faculty, and graders —such as international students—are at greater risk than others to strike, particularly as we witness ICE ramp up its tactics in North Carolina. This requires that citizens, white students and faculty, tenured faculty, and other privileged groups rise up to this task and carry the burden that marginalized communities have carried in fighting for justice. We stand in solidarity with these workers.

 

EMAIL: strikedownsam@protonmail.com

Background for Each Demand:

  1.     In November of 2017, activists discovered that the UNC PD infiltrated a peaceful sit-in of students and community members in protest of Silent Sam in August and September of that year. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents have also revealed that UNC police and Campus Safety and Risk Management monitored progressive student and faculty listservs, while an email from a Silent Sam supporter that threatened bringing an M16 to campus merely received a form letter. On the ground, police have used physically violent measures to disperse and arrest student and community protesters, using pepper spray, violent arrests, and bicycles. On the other hand, campus police have escorted white supremacist groups such as the ACTBAC, NC Shield Guard, and CSA II: The New Confederate States of America onto campus parking lots and McCorkle Place. Media outlets have reported that at least one of the Chapel Hill police officers stationed at a protest is affiliated with the III%ers, which provided armed security for Neo-Nazis at the deadly “Unite the Right Rally” in 2017. By the same token, in an effort to delegitimize the protests, University administration and public relations have lied since August 20th, 2018 that “outside agitators” are organizing anti-racist events, when, in fact, UNC staff and students are the primary organizers and attendants. Echoes of this rhetoric are present in their report published today.

“The Panel assessed that the greatest risk associated with protest and counter protest actions on the UNC-CH campus is the threat of violence by extremist elements imbedded inside protest and counter-protest groups….Objects such as smoke bombs, poles, frozen water bottles, paint balloons and metal objects were used by demonstrators as weapons.” (4)

Moreover, the BOT’s plan to house the monument inside a separate building is explicitly designed to inhibit further protests against the monument. According to the report’s appendix:

“In comparison to the Monument’s location in McCorkle Place, a free-standing, single program building offers options under the First Amendment that are important for keeping the public safe, keeping opposing sides apart and securing the Monument. Under First Amendment law and the Campus Free Speech Act, McCorkle Place and the sidewalk along Franklin Street adjacent to it would be considered ‘public forums’ as they are public spaces that have historically and traditionally been available for public assembly, protest and debate. Under the law, the University may impose narrowly tailored time, place and manner restrictions on McCorkle Place but would not be able to prohibit gatherings or protests around the Monument either completely or by particular groups.”

Both of these measures are tactics to silence opposition to the Confederate Monument and have kept the campus community from safely expressing their dissent.

  1.     Again, UNC Police are already using militant tactics against protestors, including undercover infiltration, online surveillance, pepper spray, and physical aggression. These tactics would be dramatically expanded if the Safety Panel’s proposals went through. The report’s appendix reads:

“The Safety Panel recommend that the UNC Police acquire greater capabilities in the area of crowd control, protest management and intelligence gathering. They also recommended enhanced training for UNC Police, improvements in operational plans, and greater clarity with respect to rules of engagement. We have already begun the process of making necessary changes to enhance the capability of the UNC Police in these important respects.” (7)

“The Panel highly recommends that the UNC Board of Governors implement a systemwide mobile force that can be deployed to any campus as needed….With respect to enhanced capabilities to address large protests that involve unlawful behavior, the Safety Panel recommend that a mobile force be developed at the UNC System level (to be shared by all System institutions) to provide enhanced capability to address issues that arise with large crowds and protests. The development of such a force will require funding as well as time to hire, train and provision a System-wide resource of this nature. The Safety Panel recommends the establishment of a 40- person system wide mobile force that was estimated to cost $2,000,000 annually and require the expenditure of $500,000 for equipment costs. We believe that this recommendation warrants serious consideration and review by the Board of Governors.” (8)

Furthermore, these heightened police tactics are directly in response to the BOT’s belief that the Orange County District Court, in which antiracist activists like Maya Little were tried, did not sufficiently punish defendants. According to the statement:

“The security consultants also pointed out that we must take into consideration the fact that the recent decisions of some Orange County judges add to the security risk.” (8)

In other words, the BOT is proposing to take extralegal measures, using the UNC police force to threaten student activists and discourage further action regarding Silent Sam.

  1.     The KKK-affiliated United Daughters of the Confederacy, together with the University, sponsored the erection of Silent Sam in 1913 as part of a larger wave of Confederate monument making across the South. They participated in a broader Jim Crow era trend led by white Southern women to develop the racist ‘Lost Cause’ narrative of the Civil War, erasing the central role that slavery played in the conflict. A number of UNC historians have confirmed and elaborated on both the white supremacist intentions of the monument and slavery’s role in the Civil War, and our very own library archives house the documents that demonstrate this history. The most well-known example, of course, is Julian Carr’s speech at Silent Sam’s dedication ceremony, in which he bragged about how he “horse-whipped a Negro wench until her skirt hung in shreds.” The United Daughters of the Confederacy did not intend to honor those who lost their lives to a slaveholder-created war, but to re-establish the racial caste system that the abolition of slavery and the 14th and 15th amendments deeply threatened. Re-erecting this monument tacitly proclaims the University’s support for white supremacist ideals.
  2.     On Thursday, November 15, 2018, the University Board of Trustees approved an increase in student fees of $65.39. The Board of Governors will vote on this proposal on December 14. Annually, this is meant to yield $1.8 million dollars, or $200,000 less than the cost of the proposed mobile police force. Almost all graduate students —who do much if not most of the instructional and research labor on campus —are forced to pay these fees, decreasing their already poverty-level stipends by over ten percent. The student fee increases, according to Folt, are being used to finance building repairs that workers have been trying to address for years. This means that not only are graduate workers being asked to finance repairs to the buildings that they work in, but they are doing so in the midst of a call for a new $5.3 million dollar building —in addition to a yearly upkeep cost of another $800,000 —to house a Confederate Monument on their campus. A number of UNC staff — instructional, maintenance, housekeeping, dining services, etc — make well below $15 per hour, or the minimum wage for state government employees per the budget passed by the NC general assembly in June 2018. Meanwhile, Carol Folt makes over half a million dollars a year, Larry Fedora is fired with a $12,000,000 severance pay, and the campus’ former Confederate Monument is placed back on campus for no less than $5.3 million dollars.

The University works because we do. If we don’t get it, shut it down.

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Julian Carr’s Great Great Great Granddaughter Supports Anti-Racist Defendants

In a letter sent to Chancellor Folt, Meg Yarnell, Julian Carr’s direct descendent has condemned her great great great grandfather’s legacy of racism and has called for UNC to drop the Honor Court and criminal charges against anti-racist activists who protested Silent Sam. 

Below is the text of the letter:

An Open Letter to the UNC Administration

I write to you, as the great, great, great granddaughter of Julian S. Carr, to advocate that UNC drop the Honor Court and criminal charges against Maya Little and the antiracist activists arrested protesting the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam. Considering the legacy of my great, great, great grandfather, who was instrumental in erecting Silent Sam and infamously dedicated the statue by celebrating the purity of the Anglo-Saxon race and the time that he “whipped a negro wench until her skirt hung in shreds,” I am grateful for what Maya did to contextualize this statue and advance the cause for its removal.

My family can trace our lineage in the United States back to early America and the shameful time when our ancestors owned slaves, a time when it was perfectly acceptable, even enviable, for one man and his kin to become rich off the unpaid labor, industry, and suffering of hundreds of men, women and children.

My great, great, great grandfather Julian Carr fought in the Civil War on side of the Confederacy, which explicitly dedicated itself to keeping this system of slavery alive. Yes, he loved his family and parts of the community in which he lived, but we must recognize that Julian was a white supremacist whose vitriolic speech and actions resulted in the pain and suffering of many.

As a white person, and descendant of Julian Carr, I cannot remain silent. Our silence as white people is complicity with white supremacy and has created a very painful world. It is a horrifying necessity to confront the reality that my ancestors participated in such shameful things, and I want to express my sorrow and deepest apologies for the profound suffering, trauma and inequality caused by the actions of my ancestors, including Julian Carr. However, apologies are not enough. Action is needed to help right these historic wrongs.

As Frederick Douglass said during an 1881 speech, “Slavery is indeed gone, but its long, black shadow yet falls broad and large over the face of the whole country.” This continues to be true today.

The founding of our country is circumscribed by multiple traumas of oppression and violence—slavery of Black people and genocide of First Nations peoples among them. As a nation we have failed to truly understand, acknowledge, mourn, and make reparations for our country’s violent origins.

This untreated wound is why is so difficult to talk about race and culture in America. It is one of the reasons we do not make meaningful headway on so many of societies’ problems such as poverty, institutional racism, police brutality, the prison industrial complex, and health inequality. It is why we continue to hold onto racist and damaging memorials such as the one torn down at UNC.

By our “founding fathers’” design, white people have benefitted and continue to benefit from slavery and its contemporary semblances. As white people, we need to confront our past and take responsibility for creating real socioeconomic and racial equity and justice today. For one, we need to use the privilege history has afforded us to speak the truth and remove Confederate monuments like Silent Sam, which only serve to celebrate our nation’s ugly past and present. We should applaud the actions of Maya Little and other antiracists activists, many of whom are people of color, for putting themselves at risk to improve our communities.

Maya’s action in April 2018 was a courageous act of civil disobedience and an attempt to ameliorate the harm that white people have done. She generated thoughtful discussion around issues of white supremacy at her own expense. Those that participated in the actions against the statue in August and early September also sought to turn the tides on campus to discussions of racial inclusion and social justice. I stand proudly with them.

UNC is in a unique position at this moment in time. Silent Sam has been removed. In its absence, the university can reimagine the commemorative landscape to represent the community’s highest values. UNC can create a campus that is welcoming for all and in the spirit of its mission to serve as a center for research, scholarship, and creativity for a diverse community of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to become the next generation of leaders.

Maya Little, as well as those involved in removing and protesting the statue, are some of these leaders. It would be another wound to silence or make invisible (or worse, violently eradicate) their actions, which have put UNC’s community and our nation in a greater place to collectively heal.

Sincerely,

Meg Yarnell

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Members of the UNC Community Have Tried to Remove Silent Sam for Over 50 Years

(References)

There have been many comments from those who applaud the removal of Silent Sam, but oppose the means by which it was removed. So this is an attempt to outline only SOME of the efforts activists at UNC have taken historically & today to oppose Silent Sam. The contemporary Silence Sam movement has been met by UNC’s administration with either silence or open hostility.

First some history from the UNC Archives– Between 1968 and the early 1990s, protests came in response to major local and national events in African American history. Direct action against Silent Sam began in 1968 in response to MLK’s assassination. The Black Student Movement (BSM) and the Afro-American Society of Chapel Hill High School protested in front of Silent Sam in August 1970 to commemorate of two individuals—James Cates, a black man murdered in UNC’s Pit by members of a white supremacist motorcycle gang and, William Murphy, a black man shot and killed by a highway patrolman in nearby Ayden, NC.[i] Two years later another protest in memory of Cates and led by the BSM started at Silent Sam. The L.A. race riots in 1992 spurred another mobilization. After a discussion at the Sonja Haynes Stone Black Cultural Center, BSM President Michelle Thomas led students in a march to Silent Sam. In 1997, UNC Housekeepers, who were mostly African American women, marched on MLK day to oppose institutional racism at UNC.

 
(Silent Sam after MLK’s assassination, Courtesy of UNC Archive)

For additional information on the longer history of the movement in the 1990s and early 2000s, see this tweet thread by history student A.M. Stephens.)

Now onto the direct predecessor of and partial inspiration for the current movement on campus.  Community members formed The Real Silent Sam Coalition in August 2011 to “to create honest public dialogue and provoke critical thought surrounding the monuments and buildings in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.”[ii] The Real Silent Sam Coalition created a fake plaque and affixed it the side of Silent Sam to contextualize its racist history.  The group also of successfully pushed for the renaming of Saunders Hall, which was originally named after 19th century Ku Klux Klan leader William Saunders. However, the university insisted on “Carolina Hall” rather than the Coalition’s preferred “Hurston Hall” to honor black UNC alumnus Zora Neale Hurston. UNC’s Board of Trustees responded by calling for a 16-year freeze on renaming other campus buildings.[iii]

Finally—our contemporary movement. The most recent, consistent opposition to Silent Sam at UNC began with a sizeable protest against the statue in August 2017. Following the protest, students and community members began a 24-hour sit-in.  UNC Police removed activists’ necessities—such as sleeping bags and tarps—after 10 days, arguing that “temporary structures” were not allowed.

Opponents of Silent Sam have also tried addressing the illegal nature of the statue. Attorney Hampton Dellinger sent a letter to UNC’s administration in September 2017 on behalf of students and faculty, arguing that the statue created a racially hostile learning environment and therefore violated federal law. Administrators responded by welcoming students to take their complaint to the university’s Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office.

Silence Sam activists have distributed informational flyers to passersby, particularly during sports games, to provide context for Silent Sam. This is when activists began to receive death threats.

Silence Sam activists created temporary placards around the statue and surrounding areas to add context to the statue (as if it were in a museum.) UNC Police ripped these up and threw them in the trash in April 2018.

In October 2017 Silence Sam activists initiated Boycott UNC against commercial goods on campus. Nourish UNC offered affordable food to boycotters, but when Chancellor Folt told administrators to “shut [Nourish] down immediately” for lack of permits, Nourish generously offered food for free.

Members of the Silence Sam movement have also regularly attended monthly Public Comments sections of UNC’s Board of Governors meetings to ask the statue be removed .  However, the BOG hasn’t responded since May 2017.[iv] See the most recent comments here, all of which oppose Silent Sam:

 

Many UNC academic departments have issued statements to administrators, openly opposing Silent Sam’s presence on campus.[v]  Various UNC historians have also written op eds appealing to the administration to remove the statue. [vi]

In April 2018, Maya Little, in an act of civil disobedience, contextualized the statue’s racist history by pouring her own blood and red paint on Silent Sam. She not only faces criminal charges, but UNC’s Honor Court decided to launch its own investigation, which could result in Maya’s expulsion. Various emails sent to administrators about a change.org petition with nearly 6,500 signatures that called for the Honor Court to drop their charges, UNC administration has never responded.

The UNC community rallied around Maya. You can see some of the public statements of support, including from various academic departments, here: http://silencesam.com/mayalittle/  These statements also uniformly call for the removal of Silent Sam.

A mystery group of distinguished professors at UNC  known as G17 (@G17UNCLoud), threatened to remove the statue with force, giving the administration a strict deadline. G17 did not follow through with their threat, though they maintain their twitter account.

Silence Sam activists attended a UNC Board of Trustee meeting, after administration announced it had spent nearly $400,000 in one year to protect Silent Sam. Protestors held signs showing all ways that money could have benefited community.[vii]

Most recently, UNC PhD candidate Jerry J. Wilson was so frustrated with UNC’s refusal to remove Silent Sam or to release the (doubtlessly negative) results of their 2016 “Campus climate survey,” that he announced he would wear a noose around his neck until UNC removed the statue.

 

Moving towards a conclusion, activists have attempted to remove Silent Sam from UNC for over 50 years and the current movement has used MANY techniques to do so. Yet still today UNC’s administration actively CHOOSES to ignore pleas of Silent Sam’s opponents. As recent as three weeks ago UNC system President Margaret Spellings and BOG Chairmen Harry Smith reiterated their refusal to act on Silent Sam.[viii]

Well beyond being non-responsive to UNC activists, administrators have surveilled their own students. An undercover UNC police officer was caught infiltrating the sit-in, though administrators claimed it was for activists’ own protection.

UNC administration has also shown that their interests lie with donors, rather than the wants and needs of our campus community. See various @topplethemall tweets, for example:

UNC Board of Trustee member Allie Ray McCullen even refers to Silent Sam protestors as “entitled wimps” in official emails.

 

I think highlighting the various tactics of the Silence Sam movement shows sufficiently the way that the community has exhausted the “civil” means of attracting the attention of UNC administrators. If Silent Sam was to be removed, it required a community working together.

 

Reference List

[i] The University Archive at UNC Chapel Hill, “A Guide to Resources about UNC’s Confederate Monument,” https://exhibits.lib.unc.edu/exhibits/show/silent-sam/timeline

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] https://alumni.unc.edu/news/trustees-vote-to-rename-saunders-hall-put-16-year-freeze-on-renamings/

[iv] https://www.northcarolina.edu/Board-Governors/UNC-Board-Governors-Public-Comment-Session

[v] See for example UNC’s Department of History’s statement: https://history.unc.edu/silentsam/ 

[vi] http://silencesam.com/silent-sam-in-the-press/

[vii] http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/article215101155.html

[viii] https://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2018/07/28/unc-board-of-governors-chair-no-action-on-silent-sam/

 

 

 

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As of last night…SAM IS SILENCED

Thank you deeply to all those who participated and made this possible.

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Silent Sam Protest – Until They All Fall

A DEMONSTRATION AGAINST SILENT SAM AND WHITE SUPREMACY

On Monday August 20th, a protest is being organized in solidarity with Maya Little, who faces both a criminal trial and an Honor Court trial at UNC for covering Silent Sam in paint and her own blood.

The demonstration is dedicated to all those who have fought and are fighting against the white supremacy that UNC upholds.

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Email the Honor Court!

Thank you to everyone who signed and shared our petition asking the UNC Honor Court to drop its charges against Maya Little. In less than a week, we received over 3,800 signatures, and the numbers continue to climb.

Let’s make sure our Honor Court officials do not ignore our petition. Please support Maya by emailing Aisha Pridgen, Director of the Office of Student Conduct (apridgen@email.unc.edu) and Courtney Bain, Graduate and Professional School Student Attorney General (cbain@live.unc.edu). Keep your emails strong yet respectful; do not engage in personal insults or profanity.

While personalized emails may be more impactful, feel free to use  some or all of the following form text if you prefer.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Dear Ms. Pridgen and Ms. Bain,

I am writing to ask you to drop the charges against anti-racist activist Maya Little. The University of North Carolina should not use its Honor Court to silence political activism or to retaliate against students who speak publicly about institutional racism at UNC. Your prosecution of Maya is unjust and unnecessary considering:

  • She already faces charges in regular court
  • The Honor Court has not prosecuted students who painted Silent Sam in the context of sports rivalries
  • Silent Sam is illegal; it violates the Civil Rights Act by creating a racially hostile learning environment
  • UNC police have not faced consequences for destroying protesters’ property (a series of historical markers aimed to educate the public about white supremacy on campus) the day they arrested Maya

For fundraising purposes, UNC claims to celebrate diversity. Yet the case against Maya fits a troubling pattern; in a predominantly white university, 56% of all academic Honor Court cases are against students of color. UNC’s Honor Court should be an instrument of justice, not a tool of institutional racism.

I am one of thousands who have signed a petition asking you to drop the charges against Maya Little. I hope our community’s widespread support for Maya will encourage you to reflect upon and reverse your decision to prosecute her.

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