Update: The rally to remove a Silent Sam statue on UNC Chapel Hill's campus has wound down. As of 10 p.m. local time, The News & Observer reported that the crowd had thinned and a small number of protesters were still sitting near the statue.
Following the rally, university spokesperson Joanne Peters Denny sent Refinery29 the following statement via email: “As a University, the free exchange of ideas under the First Amendment is core to our mission. Carolina has long been a hospitable forum and meeting place for the peaceful dissemination of differing views. It’s important to note that the vast majority of those who attended tonight’s rally honored that tradition. Unfortunately some individuals did not behave in this spirit. University police arrested two individuals who were not affiliated with the University."
Original story follows.
A rally is currently underway at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill to protest the presence of a Silent Sam statue on campus. Earlier today, police erected barricades around the monument of the Confederate soldier in anticipation of this evening's protests.
On Monday night, UNC officials requested assistance from Governor Roy Cooper, stating that the statue poses "significant safety and security threats" to the university. They asked Cooper to convene the state historical commission to determine the statue's future on campus, The News & Observer reports.
According to The News & Observer, Cooper responded that the university has the power to remove the statue if it poses a threat to public safety. He reportedly cited an exception written into the 2015 law that prevents removal of historic monuments.
However, UNC maintains that the situation is more complex than what has been reported.
"Despite how it is being interpreted in the media, the University has not been given the clear legal authority to act unilaterally. Governor Cooper cites a provision where removal would be permitted if a 'building inspector' concludes that physical disrepair of a statue threatens public safety, a situation not present here. The University is now caught between conflicting legal interpretations of the statute from the Governor and other legal experts," a spokesperson for the university told Refinery29 in an email statement.
"Based on law enforcement agencies’ assessments, we continue to believe that removing the Confederate Monument is in the best interest of the safety of our campus, but the university can act only in accordance with the laws of the state of North Carolina. As we continue to seek clear guidance and legal authority to act, we ask for your patience and cooperation to help us maintain as safe an environment as we possibly can," the statement continues.
Refinery29 has reached out to Cooper's office for comment.