Chaos broke out Monday night as a group of around 300 demonstrators gathered at the base of Silent Sam, a Confederate memorial statue on the University of North Carolina Campus.
After covering it in gray banners to turn it into an "alternative monument" which read, in part "For a world without white supremacy," Silent Sam was pulled down just after 9:15 p.m.
Protesters were apparently working behind the covering with ropes to bring the statue down, which happened more than two hours into a rally. It fell with a loud clanging sound, and the crowd erupted in cheers.
After Silent Sam tumbled to the ground, people darted in and out of the crowd through a haze from smoke bombs. Atop the statue someone placed a black cap that said, “Do It Like Durham,” an apparent reference to the toppling of a Confederate statue there a year ago. -News Observer
After the statue had fallen, protesters rushed to the remains to take selfies and stomp on the 105-year-old monument which was erected with donations from the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Silent Sam had been the focus of protests and vandalism for decades - much more so in recent years, however. UNC had installed surveillance cameras as part of a $390,000 outlay for security around the statue last year.
Stephanie Chang, 21, a recent UNC graduate, said she followed the crowd to campus after word spread on Franklin Street. By the time she got there, she saw Silent Sam’s head on the ground. Soon, police were covering the statue with a tarp.
“It’s like, Silent Sam has been tucked in, put to bed,” Chang said.
Andrew Skinner, 23, who graduated from UNC earlier this year, said he was glad the statue fell in an illegal act.
“It shows that we have the power to be on the right side of history,” Skinner said. “We are part of a long tradition of civil rights in this country.....We as a country have a lot of change and a lot of healing to do, and we are not going to get there putting racism on a pedestal.” -News Observer
The Monday protest started on downtown Franklin Street as a demonstration in support of a student who threw red ink and blood on the Confederate statue in April - leading to criminal and honor court charges.
After someone threw a smoke bomb, a skirmish erupted leading to police chasing one man and arresting another for resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer.
Several bystanders donning Confederate flags on their clothing watched the protest.
Clint Procell, 31, wore a Trump hat. A self-described conservative, Procell said he wanted to see for himself how intolerant the people protesting Silent Sam were, and the experience didn’t disappoint. He said he was pushed and his hat was temporarily stolen.
“The main reason for me to come was to see the people fighting against Trump,” he said. He described some of the protesters’ language as hateful against police and conservatives, but said he also had several conversations that were remarkably open. -News Observer
National efforts to rid the country of Confederate monuments like Silent Sam began around three years ago, after white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered African-Americans at a Charleston, South Carolina church - a shooting rampage which resulted in the removal of a Confederate flag from the Columbia statehouse.
Since then, over 110 Confederate symbols have been removed across the country, while over 1,700 remain according to the SPLC.