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Silent Sam Security Cost $390,000 in One Year

Silent Sam protest

Law enforcement officers protect Silent Sam during an August 2017 protest. (News & Observer photo by Chuck Liddy)

The University spent about $390,000 to provide police security in McCorkle Place — the oldest part of the campus and home to the Confederate statue Silent Sam — from July 2017 to the end of June.

Though UNC said it could not separate the immediate area around the statue from other security in the large quad, the figure came in response to a media query about Silent Sam.

“Since the tragic events in Charlottesville last August, UNC Police have heightened security around the Confederate Monument to protect students, faculty, staff and visitors, which is the University’s primary goal,” a UNC statement said. “Protecting the monument is always secondary to the safety of the people around it.”

The figure is considerably less than the one listed in a memo to Chancellor Carol L. Folt from August 2017 in which Police Chief Jeff McCracken estimated the cost of guarding the statue against vandalism at about $620,000 annually — or $1,700 per day.

The costs were part of the UNC Police operating budget and included personnel costs, such as overtime and contingency staffing, as well as operating expenses and assistance from outside law enforcement agencies. The University spent about $3,000 to clean the monument after vandalism during the fiscal year.

There is a visible police presence near the statue most of the time, with officers walking the grounds or in marked cars parked on Franklin Street.

“The campus community has a long tradition of peaceful protests and respectful debate,” the statement said. “Public safety officials and administrators are most concerned about outside groups, over which the University has no control and who may appear without warning.”

Folt called for removal or relocation of the statue from McCorkle Place following a rally at the monument in August 2017 by hundreds of people, the vast majority of whom demanded that the statue be removed. It was erected in June 1913 under the auspices of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, as the Alumni Review reported at the time, “in memory of all University students, living and dead, who served in the Confederacy.”

While Civil War monuments have been removed on other campuses in the country in recent years, this statue is among those that have endured.

The N.C. General Assembly in 2015 enacted a law that prohibits the removal or relocation of publicly sited monuments without the permission of the N.C. Historical Commission. After the August protests, which followed closely after racial violence in Charlottesville, Va., campus officials hoped to be able to take it down for safety reasons. Gov. Roy Cooper ’79 (’82 JD) said University officials were within their right to remove the statue if they perceived an immediate threat. UNC interpreted that differently, saying it did not have the authority.

Most of the 28 speakers at a listening session held by the UNC trustees in November 2017 said Silent Sam is both a symbol of evil and now a threat to safety. The safety threat claim is broadly misunderstood by the public, particularly those outside Chapel Hill.

“I stand at the statue almost every day and give information about it to passersby,” doctoral student Maya Little, a leader of the Silent Sam activists, told the trustees. “I see this as a part of my duty here as a history student and teacher. … It is a public safety hazard. White supremacists, some of them Carolina fans and alumni, tell us we need to stop talking about racism. They tell us we need to be put back in our place. … They tell us that they will bring their guns. … They tell us that they will end us. That they will kill us.”

In May, Little staged her own protest, pouring red ink and what she said was her own blood on the statue in the full presence of police. She was arrested and charged with defacing it.


 

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