UNC could be sued over Silent Sam statue

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A New York-based law firm representing 12 students and a professor at UNC at Chapel Hill is pressing the school to remove the Confederate statue, Silent Sam. (WTVD)

A New York-based law firm representing 12 students and a professor at UNC at Chapel Hill is pressing the school to remove the Confederate statue, Silent Sam.

Before taking legal action, a handful of protestors and even the city's mayor made the same request.

READ MORE: Protest continues at UNC Silent Sam statue; 3 arrests made

The lawsuit threat comes amidst a week of sometimes tense protests over the monument. A less-vocal group of Silent Sam supporters argue the statue should stay put - in tribute to UNC alumni killed in the Civil War.

An attorney wrote Wednesday to UNC officials contending the 1913 Confederate statue violates federal anti-discrimination laws.

"I 100 percent agree with this lawsuit, with this potential lawsuit because (UNC) is in violation," said UNC senior Michelle Brown, one of the 12 students being represented in the potential legal case.

The warning comes from Hampton Dellinger, a Durham attorney with the firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner on behalf of the students, the professor, and the Black Law Students Association.

The school's top attorney and campus spokesmen did not respond to questions seeking comment.

However, the Vice Chancellor of University Communications, Joel Curran, issued this statement:

"We have received the letter and understand that for many people the Confederate Monument's presence can engender strong emotions, and we are respectful of those emotions. While we do not have the unilateral legal authority to move the monument, these students have raised questions about federal civil rights law that will need to be addressed, and we will work with our Board of Trustees and Board of Governors to do so. In the meantime, the Chancellor's Task Force on UNC-Chapel Hill History is developing an interpretive plan for McCorkle Place that will include signage presenting historical context of how the monument was erected as part of a broader effort to tell the honest and accurate history of the University."

And Chancellor Carol Folt maintains the school's hands are tied by a 2015 law passed in the state legislature preventing a monument's removal without approval by the North Carolina Historical Commission.

If the case does go to court, Brown believes a key piece of evidence is the speech Julian Carr, a wealthy Orange County industrialist and Confederate war veteran, delivered at the monument's unveiling 104 years ago.

"(Carr's speech) brags about whipping a black woman, it brags about the purity of the Anglo-Saxon race being maintained by those who fought for the Confederacy," said Brown. "That's racism."

The commission is set to meet September 22. The future of Silent Sam is not on the panel's agenda, but Brown and her cohorts will spend the next week trying to pressure the chancellor and the governor to get the issue added to the discussion.

REALEATED: Cooper seeks to move 3 Confederate monuments from Capitol grounds

The Associated Press contributed to this post.
Related Topics:
politicsconfederate monumentuncchapel hill newsconfederacynorth carolina newsChapel Hill
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