3 arrested as hundreds protest on UNC campus against Confederate statue

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — A few hundred people rallied on the campus of North Carolina’s flagship university to demand the removal of a Confederate statue there.

The gathering Tuesday night at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill focused on a statue known as “Silent Sam.” People chanted “tear it down” while uniformed officers watched from behind temporary metal barriers ringing the statue, depicting a Confederate soldier.

“Hey, hey. Ho, ho. This racist statue has got to go,” the crowd also chanted.

Several speakers addressed the crowd with a megaphone. One student, Mario Benavente, said the statue glorifies slavery. “It celebrates the subjugation of black and brown people,” he told the crowd.

The protest was largely peaceful, but at least one man was taken away by officers. It’s unclear if he was charged.

The crowd later marched through Franklin Street toward what protest leaders said was the home of the university system president. After blocking traffic for about 20 minutes, they left without incident and returned to the statue.

Not everyone wanted to see the statue toppled.

David Leeds of Durham brought a sign that said “Hands Off Sam” in big red letters. He told a reporter that he didn’t support the Confederacy but was upset by the idea that protesters had broken the law in his city by tearing down a Confederate statue a week ago. He thinks people should go about protesting in a lawful manner.

Two hours into the protest, no demonstrators had breached the barriers around the statue where officers in riot gear stood.

The protest was largely peaceful, but two people were arrested by UNC police and a man was arrested by Chapel Hill police.

One person taken into custody by Chapel Hill police was a man who was wearing a handkerchief around his nose and mouth, which is against the rules of protesting on the UNC campus.

Around 9:45 p.m. Chapel Hill police confirmed a man was arrested for “wearing a mask on public property” and “resist, delay or obstruct a public officer.” Both charges are misdemeanors.

Greg Williams, a member of Industrial Workers of the World, was later identified as the man who was arrested, Chapel Hill police said.

The pair arrested by UNC police were a person charged with possession of a knife and a person charged with resisting arrest and wearing a mask, police said

The identities of the duo arrested by UNC police were not available.

Around 10:30 p.m. UNC officials released a statement about the protest:

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.

The safety of our campus and the community is our top priority and we thank the town, the county and the state for their support in this effort.” – Joanne Peters Denny, UNC-CH spokesperson

At least seven protesters spent the night at the statue. One student told CBS North Carolina they would protest the statue until it’s taken down.