CHAPEL HILL, NC (WECT) - A Wilmington member of the UNC Board of Governors says he is appalled by the toppling of a Confederate monument on the UNC campus Monday night.
Former State Senator Thom Goolsby says regardless of how you feel about the Silent Sam statue, protesters who took the statue down by force engaged in "anarchy" that cannot be allowed to go unchecked on a school campus.
Goolsby shared his thoughts on the issue Tuesday night on Facebook, in a post that's already been shared by thousands of people. When WECT reached out to him Wednesday morning for more details, he said the UNC Board of Governors is actively investigating the incident, and will likely meet to discuss it in the near future.
"As a member of the Board of Governors, I am dedicated and I know our chairman is, I have spoken to him and other members of the board. That we find out who the people are who are responsible for this," Goolsby told WECT.
Goolsby wants the protesters who tore the statue down prosecuted for felony destruction of property. But he also wants the police to be held accountable for their inaction Monday night.
"The fact that the police stood down on one of our university campuses, allowed radicals to go in, for it seemed like an hour and a half I believe, and pull this statue down, in violation of North Carolina law. When law enforcement was there and did nothing. Didn't call the Orange County Sheriff's Department, Chatham County Sheriff's Department, Wake County Sheriff's Department, Highway Patrol, nothing. They just let it all occur on campus. I want to know who allowed that. Who gave the stand down order?" Goolsby demanded.
When asked if the police may have declined to act due to fear for their own safety, Goolsby said that didn't make sense considering the extended timeline would have allowed them to call for backup if they really thought they needed it.
"[The protesters] literally stood there and put up a bamboo curtain to shield the fact that they were unscrewing the bolt off the bottom of the statue. Police did nothing. Put on rubber gloves like they were going to execute an arrest and then took them off. They literally stood down."
Silent Sam was erected in 1913 as a memorial to UNC students who lost their lives in the Civil War. A significant percentage of the campus body fought in the war between 1861-1865. The Silent Sam monument was a gift from the United Daughters of the Confederacy, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War.
In recent years, particularly after the deadly protest in Charlottesville, VA, surrounding a bronze statue of Robert E. Lee, Confederate statues and monuments across the south have become increasingly controversial. While some feel they pay an important tribute to those who lost their lives in the deadliest war in our nation's history, others feel they are a symbol of racism and an unwelcome reminder of an ugly time.
"If you don't like it, protest all you want. Work to get people elected to change it. I'm all for that," Goolsby said of acceptable alternative for those who want the statue removed. "That's the way it works in a civil society. In an uncivil society, in anarchy, you just go tear stuff down you don't like."
State law requires the reinstallation of the monument. According to NC GS 100-2.1(b), "An object of remembrance located on public property may not be permanently removed, and may only be relocated, whether temporarily or permanently, under the circumstances listed in this subsection. An object of remembrance that is temporarily relocated shall be returned to its original location within 90 days of completion of the project that required its temporary removal."
"An object of remembrance that is permanently relocated shall be relocated to a site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, availability, and access that are within the boundaries of the jurisdiction from which it was relocated. An object of remembrance may not be relocated to a museum, cemetery or mausoleum unless it was originally placed at such a location…."
The legally allowable reasons for the relocation of an "object of remembrance" are when "appropriate measures are required…to preserve the object" or when it is necessary for a construction or renovation project.
Goolsby said prior to Silent Sam's toppling Monday night, nearly half a million dollars in public money had been spent on various security measures, including security cameras, to protect that statue. Goolsby says he respects historical monuments where they are located and does not agree with moving this statue, but his primary concern is addressing the lawlessness involved in its removal.