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Silent Sam could be moved to an indoor location on campus if there is adequate support for bills introduced Tuesday. The bills are sponsored by four legislators, three of whom represent Orange County.
The bills, which cite recent vandalism that “threaten the preservation and integrity of the monument,” call for Chancellor Carol L. Folt to identify a site by April 2019 and, if approved, for the Confederate monument to be moved within a year.
The bills’ sponsors in the Senate are Mike Woodard and Valerie Foushee ’78, and the House sponsors are Verla Insko ’90 (MPA) and Graig Meyer; Foushee, Insko and Meyer represent Orange, and Woodard is from Durham. All four are Democrats.
Folt has called for removal or relocation of the statue from McCorkle Place near Franklin Street following hundreds of people rallying at the monument last August for its removal. Some students and others in the community believe the monument is a symbol of the South’s racist past and represents an ongoing threat, saying they do not feel safe on the campus, particularly when protesters clash with those who support the monument’s presence. It was erected in 1913 under the auspices of the United Daughters of the Confederacy as a tribute to UNC alumni who died fighting in the Civil War.
While Civil War monuments have been removed on other campuses in the country in recent years, this statue is among those that have endured.
In 2015, the N.C. General Assembly enacted a law that prohibits the removal or relocation of publicly sited monuments without the permission of the N.C. Historical Commission. The bill introduced on May 29 states that the historical commission “is limited in its authority to approve the relocation of the monument.”
UNC’s Confederate monument has been a regular victim of vandalism over the years. Most recently, in April, a graduate student who has been involved in the movement to take down the statue doused it in red ink and blood. Last summer, a man was caught on video beating the face of the statue with a hammer. Besides cameras, campus police have maintained a continuous watch over the location since last August.
The bills call for the statue to be moved to a location on campus, “an indoor site [that] will enable the University to protect the monument from further defacement and damage to ensure that the monument will be preserved for future generations to gain an understanding of the legacy of slavery and the history of the Civil War.”
The bills call for appropriation of $10,000 toward the cost of the move.