UNC leadership blasted for handling of Silent Sam August protest

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- "Inefficient" and "inadequate" are just some of the adjectives used to categorize UNC-Chapel Hill's handling of an August protest, where the controversial Confederate Silent Sam statue was toppled by a roaring crowd of protesters.

It's hard to now recognize where that statue once stood on campus. The ground has been backfilled with dirt and straw laid on top. There is a sign posted nearby that reads "Turf renovation in progress."

The area was the site of a violent protest Aug. 20.

Beforehand, according to a new report, the University Police Chief penned several letters to Chancellor Carol Folt warning that "it was only a matter of time before an attempt would be made to bring down the statue" and consistently monitoring it "would cost $621,000 annually."

The report says the university grossly underestimated how many people would show up to the protest, and UNC leaders based their safety plan on Facebook RSVPs to the event.

With "anticipated low turnout ... only a handful of officers were initially asked to be on duty."


The report says there was a breakdown of communication between Chapel Hill Police and UNC leadership. Barricades weren't even put up around the statue in spite of leaders knowing the Silent Sam protest was going to happen.

Officers were insufficiently trained, the report goes to say, in crowd-control techniques and some officers couldn't remember the last time they took a course.

Early in the melee, 30 to 40 Chapel Hill officers were held back at a staging area even though there were calls for assistance. The university thought at the time they "successfully navigated two years and over 35 protests and other demonstrations."

"It is now clear, with the benefit of hindsight, that UNC-Chapel Hill did not accurately predict the number of attendees, the organization of the protestors, or their intentions," Folt wrote in a letter this past October.

The findings were released a day after Folt left the chancellorship.

The embattled chancellor had originally announced she would be staying on through the end of the semester, but the Board of Governors, upset that Folt included an order to remove the Silent Sam statue's pedestal in a letter announcing her resignation, moved to expedite her departure.

"(It) was surprising because it happened so suddenly," said student Nick Rodriguez.

The sophomore said that after so many protests and much political back-and-forth, there finally seems to be some peace on campus.

"There used to be so much commotion about it and people were out here camping and protesting the whole thing, and now that they aren't ... it's kind of weird," Rodriguez said. "It's calmer now."

But the curiosity remains. We still don't know where Silent Sam is being stored and officials are not releasing that information.
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