Protest at Silent Sam ahead of vote over UNC Civil Rights Center

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Protest at Silent Sam ahead of vote over UNC Civil Rights Center

In a three-part protest that traversed UNC's campus in Chapel Hill, demonstrators marched from the South Building for a rally in the shadows of the school's most polarizing monument, Silent Sam.

"Take it down! Take it down! Take it down," shouted the demonstrators.

Thursday's calls to remove the Confederate monument come as new details emerge about the university's response to this summer's tense protests over Silent Sam.

The News & Observer obtained a letter signed by 15 members of UNC'S 28-member Board of Governors, scolding UNC System President Margaret Spellings and board chairman Lou Bissette.

The members thought UNC's response to the Silent Sam protests should have been stronger; And that turning to Gov. Roy Cooper for help with what to do about the statue made UNC look weak.

But Thursday's march and rally was less about the saga over Silent Sam and more about Friday morning's vote by the Board of Governors over the future of the UNC Center for Civil Rights.

The board is set to vote on a controversial proposal to prevent the center from filing legal claims. The center built its name on fighting social, economic and environmental legal cases on behalf of poorer and often minority clients. Opponents of the proposal argue it's short-sighted, at best; racist, at worst.

"When our clients try to get their local leaders, their local government officials to do the right thing, to abide by the Constitution and those elected leaders fail to do that-- then those folks ought to have a way to go into court and vindicate their rights under the Constitution," said Elizabeth Haddix, senior staff attorney for the center. "That's what the Center for Civil Rights has done and will no longer be able to do once this proposal passes."

The Board of Governors is set to vote Friday morning. Thursday's protesters plan to be at the meeting in force. Organizers have plans for a shuttle bus from campus and others are urged to carpool.
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