On August 20th, the Silent Sam Confederate statue at UNC in Chapel Hill in North Carolina was torn down by hundreds of community members, after years of direct action, protest, and pressure to have it removed. Since the toppling, a collection of pro-Trump blogs, neo-Nazi and Alt-Right campaigners, and Republicans officials have all lobbied for the statue to be put back up, and have also pushed to demonize antiracist and antifascist protesters, some even going so far as to doxx them for the supposed crime of being at the protest on the 20th.
One such website, Big League Politics, founded by ex-Breitbart and Daily Caller authors and who have promoted a variety of conspiracy theories along with the campaigns of people like Roy Moore, claim that they received “exclusive information” about local antifascists involved in the statue protests, however simply republished photos, info, and names of people targeted by neo-Nazis trolls like “Jack Corbin” from the Alt-Right social media website, Gab.
But while neo-Nazis trolls cheered on the police who have made arrests, for others protesters, court hearings have already begun for some that were arrested on the 20th and the 25th of August. Meanwhile, pro-Confederate organizers in the local and regional area have actually threatened to carry out acts of physical violence and murder against those who oppose the Silent Sam statue. Unsurprisingly, the school administration and local law enforcement has remained largely silent on these threats, seemingly content to harass and arrest antiracist demonstrators.
Furthermore, according to local journalists and antifascist researchers, many of those mobilizing to “defend” the Silent Sam statue were also attendees at the infamous neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Unite the Right. Now, it seems their attentions have turned towards Chapel Hill and UNC.
As Triad City Beat wrote:
The students’ insistence that pro-Confederate activists leave the campus and their anger at the police has unfolded against a backdrop of escalating assaults and threats of violence.
Joshua Pennington, a pro-monument activist from Alamance County who is linked to [a neo-Confederate group] ACTBAC, is accused of pulling a knife and threatening to kill a graduate student during the rally that culminated in the statue coming down on Monday. The student, Tim Osborne, said Pennington held a knife up to him and said, “I could kill you right now.”
Osborne recounted, “I’m screaming, ‘He’s got a knife. This guy’s got a knife out. He could stab me.’ I wanted to draw attention to his hand and let people know he’s dangerous.” On Monday, and then again on Saturday, Osborne repeatedly stepped up to pro-Confederate activists and demanded that they leave. He said he got between Pennington and an antifascist protester early in the rally on Monday, and after that Pennington would make comments like, “Take a swing, and I’ll end you,” every time the two encountered each other for the rest of the evening.
Threats of violence have also been directed against Maya Little, a former student well known for pouring blood onto the Silent Sam statue in a recent act of protest. In response, Little has received an ongoing barrage of threats of bodily harm:
“At this statue I have felt degraded, and I have also been harassed,” Little said at the rally on Monday before Silent Sam was toppled. “I watched one of my friends have her life threatened by a neo-Confederate football fan. I have been surveilled by police. I have been called a ‘n***er.’ I have been told that I will be hung from the tree above Silent Sam.”
On August 25th, a handful of neo-Confederates again returned to the plaza were the statue had been torn down by hundreds of people. The resulting scuffles and clashes led to more arrests, as well as an arrest of a member of Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County North Carolina (ACTBAC NC), Barry Brown, who neo-Nazi internet troll Jack Corbin, aka Daniel W. McMahon of Brandon, FL, refers to as a “friend” on his Gab account. Also in attendance were several white nationalists who attended the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, in August of 2017, which is of no surprise, as ACTBAC NC’s connections to white nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations goes way back.
Also playing a role in organizing the small neo-Confederate rally on the 25th was Tennessee based, Jamie Wilson:
Wilson recently attended the Patriot Prayer rally in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 4. During the Patriot Prayer rally, Wilson connected with Billy Helton, aka Billy Sessions, an Arkansas-based activist whose group the Hiwaymen hybridizes neo-Confederate and patriot militia styles of activism. In statements made on Facebook Live videos, Helton often endorses violence and has made disparaging remarks about African Americans and Mexicans.
After the 25th, numerous threats of violence were also posted online, yet as per usual, the police have instead focused energy on arresting and harassing local antifascists:
On Wednesday, an individual identified as David Gregory posted on Facebook: “UNC better handle this storm correctly or there will be dead bodies on the streets up there. This has the potential to become very bloody.”
An individual identified as Justin Allman posted on the ACTBAC Facebook page on Aug. 22: “Done talking. Done fighting. Time to drop them where they stand. Let us treat them the same way they have treated our statues. Let the streets flow with the blood of the ignorant.”
Antifascists have also cited a comment attributed to Al Hartkopf, also on the ACTBAC page, that reads: “We missed our chance to stand for our state and our country and carpet the lawn with the bodies of these bastards.”
Hartkopf, a former member of the Orange County School Board who is a registered Republican, told City Beat that he did not make the comment and that his Facebook account was hacked. “I assure you,” he said, “I am anything but a fascist.”
One local police officer on the night of the 20th was also photographed with a Three Percenter tattoo, the 3%er are a far-Right, and anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim militia network, who also attended and did security for the neo-Nazi Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. The police chief’s response? Only that the officer would not show off his tattoo in public again.
On Thursday, this collection of neo-Confederats and neo-Nazis will again descend on Chapel Hill and again students, community members, and antiracists will be there to defend their campus, their community, and each other in the face of very real threats of murder and violence coupled with police inaction and collusion.