multimedia journalist

Eight people arrested at latest Silent Sam protest

By Amy Cockerham

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.— Eight people were arrested Saturday after two smoke canisters were activated at the latest Silent Sam demonstration since the statue’s controversial toppling nearly one month ago.

On Saturday evening, 10 members of the Tennessee-based CSA II: The New Confederate States of America gathered inside barricades on McCorkle Place to take part in an “Evening Prayer Service for Silent Sam.” At the same time, approximately one hundred Silent Sam opponents gathered outside of the barricades for a “Nazis Suck Potluck and Food Drive,” organized by Defend UNC.

Tensions between Silent Sam opponents and UNC-Chapel Hill police began early Saturday afternoon when UNC-Chapel Hill police confiscated canned food donations from the potluck. Randy Young, a member of the university’s Media Relations team, said the items were collected for security reasons.

“Bins were set up and items collected and held by police during the crowd gathering,” Young said. “Donated goods were delivered by UNC-Chapel Hill police on behalf of Defend UNC to Heavenly Groceries on Monday.”

Tensions grew later in the evening when police used their bicycles as temporary barriers to escort the 10 Silent Sam supporters off of McCorkle Place, and a member of the crowd threw a smoke canister into the throng of people. Julie Hall, a resident of Hillsborough, watched as the arrests unfolded.

“I’ve been at some of these protests and when I hear the word Nazis it’s like I have to show up,” Hall, 59, said.

Young said after police arrested the member of the crowd who activated the smoke canister, several other crowd members impeded and assaulted police officers.

Young said at around 6:45 p.m., UNC-Chapel Hill police activated their own smoke canister to disperse the crowd, and seven more arrests were made. Police asked everyone to exit McCorkle Place under N.C. General Statute §14-288 due to disorderly conduct, and remaining Silent Sam opponents rushed to clean up what remained of their potluck.

A poster in front of the potluck table read “Donations Welcome, Pepper Spray Prohibited.” Police use of a smoke canister to control the crowd Saturday was a departure from the use of pepper fogger at the Aug. 30 demonstration, a decision that has faced heavy criticism online.  

Tylor Moore, a junior at UNC-CH, said the use of pepper fogger at the last rally made him more hesitant to come out this time.

“I was watching the protest last time pretty far away and was watching people react, and I didn’t know what was going on until I started smelling the pepper spray,” Moore said. “It did make me more aware of the measures police were ready to take in case the protests got too wild.”

According to UNC-Chapel Hill police reports, on Saturday Julia Pulawski was charged for assault on a campus police officer and resisting an officer. Joseph Karlik, Jaya Athavale and Christopher Wells were charged for resisting an officer and failure to disperse. Jayna Fishman and Jody Anderson were charged for assault on a law enforcement officer. Brandon Webb was charged for disorderly conduct and resisting an officer, and Joshua Mascharka was charged for assault on a law enforcement officer, failure to disperse and having weapons on school property.

The total number of arrests in connection to demonstrations on McCorkle Place since Silent Sam’s toppling on Aug. 20 has reached 24.

UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement that she is working diligently with trustees to develop a plan to present to the Board of Governors for the relocation of Silent Sam by Nov. 15, and for now Silent Sam’s pedestal remains empty.