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Activists Say Police Targeted Them After Silent Sam Toppled

File photo of Maya Little, a UNC graduate student arrested at a Silent Sam rally earlier this year.
Gabriella Bulgarelli

Activists and students who support the toppling of the Confederate Silent Sam statue at UNC Chapel Hill say they have been abused and assaulted by police. Pepper spray was used at one of the last demonstrations to disperse a crowd.At the Chapel Hill Community Policing Advisory Committee Tuesday night, people who have been protesting against the Silent Sam statue at McCorkle Place listed incidents of when police allegedly harmed them during a recent protest.

Maya Little, a UNC graduate student in history, was charged earlier this year with defacing Silent Sam.

“Again, this officer directly pepper sprayed me and a number of other people for no reason what so ever, besides to escort and help escort the white supremacists on our campus out," said Little, who received a standing ovation after her address to the committee.

UNC Graduate student Samee Siddiqui told the committee he believes certain students were targeted by police just to arrest them.

“The police are there to be attack dogs of people in power," said Siddiqui. "That is not going to change overnight, and that is not something you can do. What we can ask you to do is to stop having the Chapel Hill Police be complicit in what is happening.”

At least two of the speakers said with the escalating tension at Silent Sam rallies, they fear someone would be seriously hurt or killed.

Chairman Darrell Keyes says the Community Policing Advisory Committee usually meets monthly at the Chapel Hill Police Department, but moved the gathering to the public library because of an expected overflow crowd. Keyes says he will report the list of complaints made at the meeting to Chapel Hill Police.

Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue came to meeting prepared to speak, but attendees asked that police not be present when they presented their complaints.

“Anybody in this community related to the Silent Sam events or otherwise who thinks a Chapel Hill police officer has behaved in a way that doesn’t meet our community expectations, they need to tell me that," said Blue, outside of the library.

More than two dozen people have been arrested since the toppling of Silent Sam last month. Chapel Hill officials say all arrests were made by UNC police.

Leoneda Inge is WUNC’s race and southern culture reporter, the first public radio journalist in the South to hold such a position. She also is co-host of the podcast Tested and host of the special podcast series, PAULI. Leoneda is the recipient of numerous awards from AP, RTDNA and NABJ. She’s been a reporting fellow in Berlin and Tokyo. You can follow her on Twitter @LeonedaInge.
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