Police in North Carolina arrested seven people at protests for and against the presence of a Confederate soldier statue at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, the university said.
About 100 people faced off in “highly charged” demonstrations at the university’s McCorkle Place — where until a group of protesters pulled it down on Monday, the statue known as “Silent Sam” had stood for more than a century.
Confederate statues have become a flashpoint for protests in recent years, especially after the violence in Charlottesville, Va. in August 2017, when white supremacists gathered partly in support of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
Opponents of the statues say they glorify white supremacy, while some supporters say the statues are an important part of history.
A video from Saturday shows a small group of men walking with flags that feature the Confederate battle flag image, surrounded by counterprotesters shouting, “Nazis go home.”
In another video from Saturday, a man holding a Confederate flag argues with counterprotesters.
“All I’m here today to say is, it’s not about hate,” he says, while a counterprotester says, “It’s a traitor’s flag.”
“Just trying to educate people,” the man, identified by member station WUNC only by first name as Mike, said. “They can talk about how this is about hate, but it’s not about hate. This is not white supremacy, this is history.”
WUNC reports that a counterprotester said Mike had an SS tattoo (associated with Nazism) on his neck, “which he said was ‘from his past,’ and he had not removed it. He and other protesters argued and debated non-violently for about an hour during a calm among the crowd after police made several arrests earlier in the morning.”
Other videos from social media show a chaotic scene as one man is held in a headlock by an officer before police drag the man away.
In another video, a man tries to light a Confederate flag on fire before police stop him.
None of the seven people arrested in connection with Saturday’s protests were affiliated with the university, the university said in a statement. It said nobody was seriously injured.
The student newspaper The Daily Tar Heel reports the charges include assault, resisting arrest, injury/damage to property and causing/inciting a public disturbance.
Between 200 and 300 people were present on Monday when protesters brought the statue down with ropes. Police took the statue away, WUNC’s Will Michaels reported last week.
Activists protesting against white supremacy considered the statue’s toppling a victory. “I mean, it feels biblical. It’s thundering and starting to rain. It’s almost like heaven is trying to wash away the soiled contaminated remains,” university professor Dwayne Dixon told The Daily Tar Heel last week.
The university called the incident “dangerous” and “vandalism.”
One person was arrested Monday and three others arrested on Saturday in connection with Monday night’s protest, according to the student paper.
The “Silent Sam” statue was erected in 1913, and according to WUNC’s Michaels, it’s “been the subject of protests and occasional vandalism for decades.”