A civil rights organization is trying to send Confederate statue Silent Sam back to UNC Chapel Hill’s campus, a top official says.
Silent Sam — which was illegally toppled by protesters in August 2018 — stirred up more conflict in late November. The day before Thanksgiving, a committee of the University of North Carolina System’s Board of Governors handed the statue over to the Sons of Confederate Veterans organization, along with a $2.5 million trust fund. The deal was made as part of a lawsuit, but paperwork shows the university planned the hand-off before court documents were even filed.
On Friday, Dec. 13, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an organization based in Washington, D.C., filed a motion to intervene in the case.
But BOG Chairman Randy Ramsey continues to defend the agreement. The only other option was to put Silent Sam back on Chapel Hill’s campus, he said.
“It’s irresponsible that the LCCRUL organization is working so hard to return Silent Sam to UNC-Chapel Hill, putting the safety of students, faculty, staff, and visitors at risk,” Ramsey wrote in a statement Monday, Dec. 16. “Law enforcement experts have made it crystal clear: returning the monument to campus would pose serious public safety risks to students, faculty and staff. The lawful settlement approved by the court ensures the monument never returns to any county where a UNC System institution is located, and the UNC System and the Board will continue to defend solutions that protect public safety.”
Early Monday, five board members released an opinion editorial in the Raleigh News and Observer, defending the deal with SCV.
“We were given the responsibility to resolve a deeply divisive and personal issue,” the editorial said. “While we have heard from citizens across this state who have expressed their gratitude for our efforts of finding a solution to this issue, we also acknowledge that others strongly disagree with the board’s decision to approve the settlement. Compromise was a necessity.”
On Dec. 11, the LCCRUL sent a letter to the board. The settlement reached by members wasn’t legal, the letter said, and leaders should take any actions “necessary to protect UNC’s interests and to recover the $2.5 million dollars dedicated to paying that judgement.”
The letter was penned by Mark Dorosin and Elizabeth Haddix, co-directors of the Julius L. Chambers Center for Civil Rights. Dorosin and Haddix have a contentious history with the BOG. Two years ago, both were fired from their jobs at the UNC Center for Civil Rights, a left-leaning nonprofit that came under scrutiny by the BOG for practicing law as though it were a licensed firm. In 2017, the Republican-led BOG banned the center from such practice after the N.C. State Bar issued a letter of caution about the legality of the center’s court involvement. Dorosin and Haddix continued their law practice under the rebranded umbrella of the CCCR.
UNC late Monday afternoon released a slew of documents related to the lawsuit, including a timeline of events surrounding the deal, court filings, and a letter from SCV leader Kevin Stone. Carolina Journal is reviewing the documents.