Earlier this year, I was critical of the handling of the prosecution of various protesters in North Carolina who torn down a statue in public and then celebrated their criminal acts in broad daylight. Because the statue of a civil war memorial, the act of property destruction was condoned by many and Durham District Attorney Roger Echols caved to the pressure in dropping all charges against everyone. It was effective immunity for a popular criminal act — a dangerous concept in any legal system. Not surprisingly, others are now claiming the right to unilaterally destroy property. The latest were protesters on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s campus who took it upon themselves to destroy the controversial Silent Sam Confederate statue.
Silent Sam has stood at the spot since 1913 as a memorial to the “sons of the University who died for their beloved Southland 1861-1865,” according to UNC’s website.
There has been simmering debate over these statues, including Silent Sam. The college community was debating its removal when these protesters decided that they did not have to wait for any decision or permission. Given Echols’ earlier action, it is not surprising that they viewed themselves as immune from criminal laws.
What is astonishing is that this took hours but the college and police did nothing. Protesters started during the day and then finally destroyed the statue by nightfall. They then filmed themselves celebrating and kicking the statue with no concern for arrest as shown by the CNN affiliate WRAL-TV.
One person was arrested and that person was not arrested for the destruction of the statue but “concealing one’s face during a public rally and resisting arrest.”