Chapel Hill, NC: Hundreds Launch Blockade Around Confederate Statue

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Tuesday night at 7pm hundreds of people, students and non-students, gathered around University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill’s Silent Sam statue to protest the Confederate monument, using chants, signs and banners, and literature describing the history of resistance against this white supremacist shrine. Hundreds of water bottles were stationed around the perimeter of a double ring of metal fence barricades, inside which stood the statue and a dozen cops. Dozens more cops stood guard around the quad, facing in towards the crowd.

Around 8pm, there was a scuffle on the Franklin St. side of the statue as protesters swarmed towards a group of more than two dozen police. They were detaining a man for wearing a bandanna around his nose and mouth, and immediately a crowd of a hundred were right up against the line of cops trying to take him away, screaming chants of “Let him go! Let him go!” The cops and our stolen comrade dipped right into the nearest building, Hyde Hall, and hide they did as protesters amassed outside its doors, screaming in the faces of the visibly shaken cops on the exterior, chanting, “The cops and the Klan go hand in hand!”
 Shortly someone shouted, “They’re taking him out the back! There’s a side door!” and quickly people began to spill around towards that door, where a van was waiting in a driveway. A few people stood between the building’s side exit and the van, but they weren’t enough to prevent the cops from walking through the small group and into the van with our comrade.

“Block the van!” a few folks shouted. This small crowd was so adaptive and responsive, and immediately others joined the chorus: “Block the van!” Folks raced to put their bodies in the exit path of the van. The vehicle pulled out onto Franklin Street but were stopped by protesters banging on the hood with their hands and shouting, “Back up, back up! We want freedom, freedom! All these racist ass cops, we don’t need ’em, need ’em!” And after a few moments, despite the efforts of the pigs on foot to direct the van to an exit, the van backed up, back into the driveway.

Several dozen people then sat in the driveway to block its exit, but the cops quickly bulldozed through it, throwing scrambling protesters to the ground. The van finally pulled out onto Franklin St, and folks who had been trying to block the driveway spilled into the street only to find a crowd of three hundred protesters just a block and a half down the road! They had marched to the President’s house and were coming back up towards the monument.

The two groups blended together, but not before the van was able to turn down a side street. Some folks dragged cones in an attempt to slow the van, but the protesters were spread too thin, and there were dozens of cops pushing people away from the van while kicking cones back out of the street.

After the van finally departed, and a UNC student was arrested, protesters milled around the street for a while screaming “FUCK 12!” before gathering back around the statue and eventually declaring a sit-in.  Someone shouted to the crowd, “Let’s go ahead and take a seat; let them know we’re here for the long haul!”

As of the publishing of this piece, this is still underway. The group has dwindled significantly in numbers but was met with support all Wednesday long with donations of tents, tarps, and food and water. Folks there aim to stay until the statue is removed, and there is a call especially for 6-9 each evening for folks to gather in opposition to the statue until it no longer stands.

The size of the crowd during Tuesday night’s protest, and especially the high number of UNC students, marks a huge shift compared to recent history. Two years ago, several dozen anti-racists met to counter-protest Confederate heritage group ACTBAC’s (Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County) rally at the Silent Sam monument.  It was almost totally non-conflictual, the spikiest moments being short screaming matches between a few people from each side, a handful of voices screaming “This statue is racist!”  Very few UNC students attended the rally.

By glaring contrast, last night hundreds of UNC students poured into the streets, protesting the Confederate monument on their campus and screaming in the faces of the police to let the masked arrestee go. Two years ago, there was little student turn out around the statue. Now, not only are students, and hundreds more, showing up to protest the statue itself, more and more folks are linking that statue to the daily terror of police, a chorus of voices singing “FUCK 12!” in the middle of the streets.

– some anarchists


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