3 arrested after tense demonstrations near 'Silent Sam' monument

Friday, August 31, 2018

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- People on both sides of the Confederate monument debate gathered near the site of the now-toppled "Silent Sam statue in tense, but relatively peaceful demonstrations Thursday night amid heavy police presence. Three people were arrested.

As police moved demonstrators away from the site near 9 p.m., people coughed and complained that there was a substance sprayed in the air. An ABC11 crew at the scene confirmed that some were coughing.

UNC confirmed that a "single deployment pepper fogger" was used by law enforcement near the Morehead Planetarium parking lot to "maintain order."

Between 200 and 300 people gathered on McCorkle Place, according to UNC and the Town of Chapel Hill. As of 10 p.m., there had been three arrests; Two arrests for affray and a third arrest for resisting an officer.

Authorities kept a few dozen pro-Silent Sam protesters separate from a larger group of counterprotesters who had gathered for a "dance party" to celebrate the fall of the statue.

Greensboro Police were called in Thursday to help Chapel Hill authorities who were worried about clashes between supporters and opponents of "Silent Sam" and the public placement of Confederate monuments.

There was at least one early confrontation.

Police stayed on scene until close to 11 p.m. to make sure no skirmishes erupted after the main demonstrations ended. A few protesters lingered but tensions seemed to have eased.

UNC sent an email overnight to students and staffers telling them to stay away from McCorkle Place, where demonstrations are expected to take place Thursday evening.

Police closed East Cameron Avenue between Columbia and Raleigh streets. They also restricted parking on Henderson and E. Franklin streets.

Already in place are a number of barricades on the quad in addition to a healthy presence of Chapel Hill police as well as Highway Patrol where the now-toppled Silent Sam statue once stood.

READ MORE: Full coverage of the Silent Sam issue

A group of moms who live in Chapel Hill and whose daughters went to school here said their prayers by the statue before leaving.

"We don't know at this time and age, we don't know what people are capable of," said Tracy Murillo. "It's not simple protests like it used to be. It's not, so that's what we're concerned about. ... when it comes into violence and disruption and dishonoring and disrespecting our history there's something wrong with that."

The University released a list of prohibited items and some rules for Thursday night in an effort to "manage events" on McCorkle Place.

Some of the measures include no alcohol, drugs, firearms or other items deemed weapons, no fireworks or flames, and no pets.

Protesters were not allowed to wear masks, hoods or any other apparel that serves to conceal one's identity.

The university also said not to "damage or deface any public property."