National group joins fight over Silent Sam, buying Raleigh billboards

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ByJoel Brown via WTVD logo
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
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Silent Sam fight escalates.

CHAPEL HILL, NC (WTVD) -- Silent Sam isn't just at UNC-Chapel Hill anymore. The controversy about the Confederate monument is now plastered on two billboards in Raleigh.

The signage was paid for by a new national group called The Make It Right Project - to help local community organizers like Heather Redding, who've been on the front lines of the ongoing battle over getting Silent Sam removed.

"I think this shows that people are still working on this issue. We're passed the dialogue point," Redding said. "A lot of people were thrilled to know that other groups are watching - they're supportive of this movement. This isn't just a local movement anymore."

UNC students have been pushing for years for Sam's removal. While the statue's defenders insist it stands only in tribute to the UNC alumni who died as soldiers in the Confederate Army; student protesters argue the monument represents the hatred and injustice of slavery in Confederate times.

The Make It Right Project agrees - putting money, resources, and these billboards towards a new movement targeting Silent Sam and nine other Confederate monuments across the country.

"All these people have already been putting their bodies and their livelihoods on the line. The idea for us is to help shine a light on their efforts, to bolster their fight," said Make It Right Senior Project Director Kali Holloway.

Through the sometimes tense demonstrations on campus, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt has expressed concern over student safety -saying she'd like to move the statue. But Tuesday night, UNC repeated to ABC11 that the school's hands are tied.

The University does not have the legal authority to remove the Confederate Monument under state law," the school said in a statement.

A special committee under the state's Historical Commission is currently considering a recommendation on what to do with the state's Confederate monuments on the grounds of the State Capitol in Raleigh.

"I think it's important that the members of the Historical Commission in Raleigh sees this billboard, as well as other legislators," Redding said.

The commission could also weigh in on a citizens petition to remove Silent Sam in Chapel Hill.

"This is North Carolina's Historical Commission's chance to state unequivocally that it's opposed to white supremacy and to recognize that black lives matter," Holloway said. "So the billboards are a way of us calling attention to that."

One billboard is up on North Raleigh Boulevard near Yonkers Road. The other is on the 1300 block of Blount Street.