Activists gathered Tuesday night for what they called a victory party across the street from the now-empty ground on which the Confederate statue known as "Silent Sam" once stood. Attendees chatted over free pizza and Kendrick Lamar’s "Humble."
“I believe that we will win,” chanted one demonstrator.
“I believe that we will win,” the crowd responded.
But underneath the celebratory mood was a sense that the fight, for these activists, is far from over.
UNC Chapel Hill Senior Alexis Hinnant said she was excited the moment she found out about the removal of Silent Sam’s pedestal but was also “really aware that there’s still so much work that needs to be done, and that’s not the only point of institutional racism on campus.”
On Monday, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt authorized the removal of the remaining parts of the statue in the same campus email she announced her resignation. A work crew removed the pedestal and placards early Tuesday morning.
The Silent Sam monument may be gone, but his future is not yet decided. UNC Chapel Hill and state university leadership -- now in flux -- must come up with a new plan for the Confederate monument.
The UNC Board of Governors was allegedly blindsided by the move. Folt told reporters on Tuesday she couldn’t speculate as to whether or not she would have been fired if she had not resigned.
“I really have not wanted my job status to be part of my decision making about the monument. And it has not been,” she said. “I have not used it in that way. That’s not how I’ve thought about it. I’ve tried to do the right thing, regardless of that impact on my job situation.”
Folt said this just hours before the Board of Governors voted to move her resignation up to the end of this month. Folt had planned to stay until after graduation in May.
Board Chair Harry Smith said the board’s decision was not a punishment.
“The Board of Governors would never operate in a retaliatory manner,” Smith said. “I don’t think we’ve done that at all. We worked close to three hours yesterday to understand the situation and the facts. And so, you know, it’s our goal to treat Chancellor Folt with grace and dignity and work with her in this. This is not punitive in any way, shape or form.”
Smith said interim UNC System President Bill Roper will choose Folt’s interim replacement. Roper begins his first day on the job Wednesday.
In the meantime, five members of the Board of Governors are working with campus officials to develop a new plan for Silent Sam. It’s due March 15th.