A statue honoring Confederate veterans at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill was discovered covered in spray paint Sunday. The words “murderer” and “black lives matter” were spray-painted on it, the Associated Press reported. Authorities said no suspects have been identified and no arrests have been made.
The statue, nicknamed “Silent Sam,” has been on campus since 1913. It was created to honor the 321 UNC students who died while fighting for the South during the Civil War, the AP reported, and is nicknamed “silent” because he carries a gun but not bullets.
â€” Emilio Vicente (@emiliovcnt) July 5, 2015
The school will discuss whether to change the names of buildings on campus and replace certain statues, university spokesman Rick White told AP, but added that damaging statues was not the way to have that discussion.
“Silent Sam” has been the crux of numerous campus demonstrations over race relations. In 2013, Matthew Taylor, a student at UNC, told Indy Week, "We're here at Chapel Hill and this is known as this progressive, liberal community that prides itself on a diverse community, but I walk through here and what I see [in Silent Sam] is a legacy of oppression to us African-Americans," Taylor said. "It's hypocritical."
In January, more than 150 people gathered at the statue as part of the #KickOutTheKKK movement launched by the Real Silent Sam Coalition, an advocacy group dedicated to raising awareness about the racialized history of spaces on campus, USA Today reported.
“By honoring leaders of the KKK and having memorials like 'Silent Sam' on campus that are completely not contextualized, it really doesn’t provide safe, welcoming, inclusive spaces on campus for students to be and to live,” Shauna Rust, a UNC junior, told USA Today.
After a gunman killed nine members of a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, last month, a debate has raged over the Confederate flag and symbols that represent white supremacy across many universities in the South.
I'm appalled that people had the nerve to vandalize Silent Sam. History will not be rewritten. Realize that and focus on what matters.
â€” Trent Gabriel (@Hermes204) July 5, 2015
as an alumna, i must ask: will Silent Sam be contextualized now that there's [recent] proof of what Confederate memorializing can do? #UNC?
— julia craven (@CurlyCrayy) June 23, 2015
— Drew Dellinger (@drewdellinger) June 21, 2015