UNC Police have issued a statement clarifying the role of campus police around the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam after protesters discovered an undercover officer had been monitoring them.
Protesters confronted the officer, who they say posed as a mechanic who shared their views about Silent Sam, in a videotaped conversation that was shared on social media.
In the statement, UNC’s chief of police and associate vice chancellor for campus safety and risk management say that while the use of undercover officers at UNC is rare, it is ” standard policing practice” on other campuses.
“The recent use of an undercover officer on our campus was limited in both time and scope and was necessary because of extraordinary circumstances that included the very real potential for a violent outbreak at any time,” the statement reads. “Our officers do not monitor the content of any protest beyond the public safety implications nor do they create reports about students or their law-abiding activities. Police officers are there to protect participants’ safety and listen to their concerns. It was never our intention to create a situation that would suggest otherwise. If you have read or made assumptions to the contrary about our campus, they are not true.”
While Silent Sam has been a point of contention for decades on UNC campus, calls for its removal have been renewed since the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and subsequent moves nationwide to take down Confederate monuments.
After demonstrators in Durham tore down a Confederate monument, protesters gathered on UNC campus demanding Silent Sam be removed from its prominent spot. Two people were arrested, and concerns we raised about how officers, who donned riot gear, handled the peaceful protest.
Beginning that night, students staged a sit-in, camping out around the base of the statue until their gear was removed by the university. Since then, students have staged a boycott and other demonstrations calling for the removal of the statue, which UNC officials say they can’t do because of a 2015 state law. A growing list of faculty members have also publicly called for the statue’s removal.
UNC’s board of trustees says it will take public comment about the statue at a meeting Wednesday and by email.
On Tuesday, demonstrators plan to march from the South Building to Silent Sam “to demand answers” about the use of the undercover officer.