Almost two years after Silent Sam came crashing down, demonstrators converged on McCorkle Place on Wednesday to protest the murder of George Floyd.
Hundreds of participants—students, families, and townspeople—stood feet away from the former home of the Confederate monument to listen to several speakers, including Raleigh/Apex NAACP president Gerald Givens Jr., Chapel Hill town council member Tai Huynh, and hip-hop artist/Millbrook High School basketball coach Rise Rashid.
“NAACP President Derrick Johnson charged all 2,000 NAACP presidents across this country to deliver one message to cities like Chapel Hill,” Givens said. “We are done dying.”
The protest was met with pushback from UNC’s Black Congress and Take Action Chapel Hill due to organizers’ collaboration with the Chapel Hill Police Department. Organizers Isabel Huesa and Emile Charles stressed that the event would be “peaceful,’ but their coordination with police made activists uneasy.
“PLEASE DO NOT GO TO THIS PROTEST,” the UNC Black Congress said in a statement on Monday. “They are in cahoots with the police and therefore are putting protestors, especially Black protestors, in danger.”
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Huesa tried to clarify the organizers’ position.
“Both the Chapel Hill and UNC Police Departments were notified of this event, but with the sole reason for asking to make sure we are able to walk in the street as a legal issue of obstructing the town’s day-to-day functions,” Huesa wrote. “This communication was emphasized and advised by many local leaders, including those within Raleigh NAACP. [The police] have played no part in organizing or facilitating this event.”
After the event’s speakers concluded, protesters took to Franklin Street to march through downtown. Police blocked off intersections on Franklin and later Cameron Avenue. None were in riot gear, but instead, they rode their bikes ahead of protesters. Julian’s, the famous men’s fashion store on Franklin Street, had black squares taped over its display windows and set up a water station for protesters.
I’m on Pittsboro street now, and people are still rounding the corner of mallette and Cameron. pic.twitter.com/7nvVYSbW6U
— sara, socially distanced (@sara__pequeno) June 3, 2020
Chapel Hill’s protests got a late start compared to Raleigh and Durham. While Durham was protesting peacefully and Raleigh’s police department was deploying tear gas on Saturday night, Chapel Hill was quiet. This was likely due to a lack of students on and around campus, although several Twitter users mentioned seeing members of the UNC community in Raleigh that night.
Protests in Raleigh and Durham today over the murder of George Floyd. Downtown Chapel Hill and UNC’s campus is silent. pic.twitter.com/UAlweQZ5cc
— sara, socially distanced (@sara__pequeno) May 31, 2020
Contact digital content manager Sara Pequeño at email@example.com.
UPDATE: Elizabeth Gardner, the owner of Krave Kava Bar in Carrboro, says that reports of sightings of Proud Boys at Krave were false. This story’s reference to those reports has been removed.
DEAR READERS, WE NEED YOUR HELP NOW MORE THAN EVER. Support independent local journalism by joining the INDY Press Club today. Your contributions will keep our fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle, coronavirus be damned.