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Students get vulgar, aggressive in protest of Confederate heritage rally at UNC

VIDEO: Confederate heritage groups’ rally prompts angry protests by students

Two Confederate heritage groups that converged at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill on Sunday to rally in support of a controversial Civil War statue on campus were greeted by a large and rowdy group of student protesters who shouted vulgar accusations at the Confederate demonstrators as well as the police there keeping the peace.

Installed in 1913, the “Silent Sam” sculpture memorializes Carolina students who died fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War. The statue has been repeatedly defaced with vandalism stating “KKK” and “Black Lives Matter,” forcing the university to install security cameras to help ensure no further damage.

On Sunday, the counter-protest consisted of a mix of black and white students and also attracted nearly twice as many participants as the confederate side, roughly 175 to 75, respectively.

The Confederate heritage supporters did not engage protesters at first, as the two groups were on opposite sides of the statue, about 50 yards apart and fenced off from each other. While protesters chanted, the Confederate group listened to speakers and gave occasional cheers.

But the counter protesters were relentless – booing, screaming, chanting and striving to disrupt the rally. They even had musicians with instruments. Many carried signs stating “It’s not heritage it’s hate,” “Kick out the KKK,” “I can’t believe we have to protest this s***,” and “UNC admin, stop condoning white terrorism, anti-blackness, and Islamophobia.”

Chants included: “Whose university? Our university!” and “Black lives matter,” to the more extreme “No justice! No peace! No racist police!” and “F*** your flag and go to h***!”

At one point the counter-protesters even turned on police officers – including black officers – standing guard. They shouted “why are cops protecting this statue?”

What’s more, a group of all-white student protesters crashed the Confederate rally to heckle its special guest speaker, H.K. Edgerton. Edgerton is an African-American member of Sons of Confederate Soldiers, and is an activist for Southern heritage. He also served as president of the Asheville, North Carolina chapter of the NAACP.

Protesters called out a series of profanities at Edgerton, jeering “F*** you! F*** your ideology! You’re boring, nobody wants to hear you!” and sometimes literally just shrieking. One protester referred to those gathered as “Nazi scum.” Another attempted to drive out the ralliers, telling one, “I’m saying your [Confederate flag] shirt makes you an idiot. Go home!” and referring to the members of the rally as fascists.

And Michelle Laws, executive director of the state NAACP, went over to the Confederate rally at one point, snapped a few pictures, and thanked them for taking their hoods off so she could see their faces.

Tension had been high from the moment the Confederate groups arrived, which had been marked by a series of pick-up trucks and cars pulling up with enormous confederate flags waving in the wind. The Confederate group members then marched from the parking lot, waving their flags, with a police escort.

The minute they came into view counter-protesters started shouting, “Hey hey! Ho ho! This racist statue’s got to go!” Some even attempted to block the path of the Confederate ralliers, holding a large poster in their path. Police escorting the Confederate protesters pushed their way through, brushing aside those who tried to block the route.

UNC student and counter-protest co-organizer Leah Osae voiced just as much anger against UNC administrators as she did Confederate supporters during the event. SilentSam3

“Let it be known that on this day the administrators allowed violence by showing more interest in protecting hate speech than preventing verbal terror and violence,” Osae chanted along with the crowd.

The protesters also held their own rally on the steps of the nearby Morehead Planetarium. Osae told The College Fix no single organization was responsible for the counter protest, that groups inside and outside the campus took part.

Osae said she was also disappointed more administrators did not show up to the event to support the student protesters.

“Do better and show up,” she added. “Show up for your students because you told us during orientation that you were here for us and you were lying to us.”

The two Confederate heritage groups that took part in the event were the Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County and Orange County Taking Back Orange County. They had stated on Facebook that their goal in the event was to “honor a beautiful monument that carries the names of those from the great state of North Carolina that fought and stood against tyranny and gave the ultimate sacrifice. Those rebels are the ancestors of us all and we will stand together and honor them.”

One of the event organizers, Gary Williamson, said in an interview with the Raleigh News & Observer that Silent Sam is about “standing up namely for the school itself, which a lot of people don’t understand, and the folks who went to Chapel Hill, the student body who fought for the cause of Northern oppression.”

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About the Author
Alec Dent -- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill