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Tensions Grow Over Confederate Statue at UNC

August 23, 2017
 
 

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told officials at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that they could remove a Confederate statue that has been the site of protests in recent years, and that has received extra scrutiny after the events at Charlottesville.

But UNC officials have decided that the governor doesn’t have the legal authority to authorize the removal of the statue, known as “Silent Sam.”

State law prevents the university from acting on its own and vests the authority to remove such monuments on public property with state historic commissions, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. New protests against the statue are being prepared by outside groups (although they might attract students), according to UNC, and Cooper pointed university officials to a loophole that allows monuments to be removed if there are public safety concerns.

However, UNC officials said that the provision concerning public safety concerns refers to structural concerns, and the university would need to have a building inspector sign off.

“The university is now caught between conflicting legal interpretations of the statute from the governor and other legal experts,” UNC officials said in a 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.”

Students and others meanwhile are angry that the university is not acting now, and protested at the statue Tuesday afternoon and evening (video below):

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