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Silent Sam Supporters Gather While Opponents Hold “Dance Party” At Site Of Fallen Statue

A few dozen neo-Confederate protesters faced off with a few hundred dancing demonstrators at the site of the toppled Silent Sam statue at UNC- Chapel Hill on Aug. 30, 2018.
Rusty Jacobs
A few dozen neo-Confederate protesters gather while a few hundred dancing demonstrators hold a "dance party" at the site of the toppled Silent Sam statue at UNC- Chapel Hill on Aug. 30, 2018.

Updated 8:30 a.m. | August 31, 2018

The torn-down Silent Sam monument was the site of dueling protests Thursday night. About 50 members of a neo-Confederate group were greeted by several hundred counterprotesters on the campus of UNC Chapel Hill.  Three people were arrested following Thursday night's protest, according to university officials. In a news release, university spokeswoman Carly Miller said two people were arrested for affray, while a third was arrested for resisting an officer. Officials did not release their names or say if they were protesting for or against the statue.

The rally came nearly two weeks after protesters toppled Silent Sam from its pedestal – leaving university administrators to decide whether or not to return the statue to its prominent spot on the Chapel Hill campus.

The UNC Board of Governors has given Chancellor Carol Folt and the Board of Trustees until mid-November to issue a decision.

Last weekend, dueling protests between supporters and opponents of Silent Sam resulted in seven arrests.

So when the Alamance County neo-Confederate group called for last night's demonstration in honor of Silent Sam, campus and town police wanted to make sure things didn't get out of hand.

And for the most part, they didn't.

Anti-Silent Sam protesters gather on Aug. 30, 2018 in front of the UNC campus site where the Confederate memorial was toppled.
Credit Rusty Jacobs / WUNC
Anti-Silent Sam protesters gather on Aug. 30, 2018 in front of the UNC campus site where the Confederate memorial was toppled.

Several hundred demonstrators turned out to oppose the 50 or so Alamance County group.

Some of the counter-demonstrators taunted the neo-Confederates, chanting "Go home, Nazis." Another throng of counter-protesters expressed themselves through dancing.

Reid Getty, 24, went back and forth between the dancers and the chanters. The Durham resident does advocacy work with a non-profit and applauded Silent Sam's removal.

"Just like the idea that Chapel Hill and surrounding communities are living around something that represents hate everyday and the idea that we can take that down and reshape it into a party and a place that is more than what it used to be," Getty said.

To prevent violent clashes, police kept the opposing groups separated.

The Alamance County neo-Confederate group remained sequestered behind some metal barriers and a cordon of police officers.

The pro-Silent Sam protesters held up Confederate flags and signs that said "Save Our Monuments" and "Preserve Our History." They were escorted from campus to their cars by a protective ring of police holding the counter-protesters at bay.

Only one of the neo-Confederate demonstrators answered a reporter's yelled request for a name and comment on how the evening went.

"Wonderful, wonderful," said Jason Pasmore.

The night ended with many counterprotesters coughing after police discharged pepper spray twice after the neo-Confederates had already left.

An official police statement later said that was done to maintain order.

Thursday night's protest came amid reports that Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue told his officers to stand aside as protesters tore down the century-old Confederate monument, according to documents obtained by a television station.

The messages obtained by WRAL-TV show Blue closely monitored the Aug. 20 protest as his officers backed up the UNC police force that takes the lead in policing the Chapel Hill campus. The station used a public records request to obtain about 400 pages of emails and texts to and from Blue on the day of the protest and the day afterward.

During the protest, Blue instructed officers "Let's give them lots of space" and "stay way out," the messages show.

At one point Blue sent a message saying Chapel Hill officers were "too close." Shortly thereafter protesters pulled down the statue.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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