“Fuck this monument!!! Destroy this monument to racism!!!” they wrote with Magic Markers on the Unsung Founders Memorial, a round granite table installed at UNC-Chapel Hill’s McCorkle Place in 2005 to honor the enslaved people who built the university. “Confederate lives matter!!!” “Yankee go home, antifa sucks.” “Racist—faggots—niger [sic].”

A couple of hundred feet away, at an art installation in the plaza outside of Hanes Art Center, they wrote: “Maya Little is a domestic terrorist! Tear this down!!!” referring to the graduate student who helped lead the campaign to remove Silent Sam. Referring to another graduate student antiracist leader, they wrote: “Fuck Lindsay Ayling. Fuck her white supremacy!!!” And, “Fuck antifa and BLM,” or Black Lives Matter. 

On Friday, Orange County District Court Judge Lunsford Long found Ryan Barnett and Nancy McCorkle guilty of injury to real property for their role in the vandalism, which occurred in the early morning hours of March 31. Long also found Barnett guilty of public urination and indecent exposure.

(The judge had indicated that he was leaning against finding Barnett guilty of public urination charge, but prosecutor Billy Massengale reminded him of a photograph showing the word “piss” written on the granite surface of the monument, with an arrow helpfully pointing toward a pool of liquid.)

At some point during that night, the two neo-Confederates also visited the UNC System Office building, removed a one-of-a-kind UNC System flag, and ran up a Confederate flag in its place. The following day, they showed up for a rally protesting an appearance by Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour in Hillsborough, holding up the UNC flag like a war prize. A photograph of the duo with the flag was widely shared in the news media.

A UNC police officer testified that he called McCorkle to notify her that the department had a criminal summons against her, and mentioned that he had seen photos of her with the flag.

“She said it was her flag,” the officer testified. 

Barnett, a thirty-one-year-old Air Force veteran who served in Afghanistan in 2013, and McCorkle, a grandmother, declined an invitation from the judge to explain their actions. McCorkle’s lawyer told the judge that his client “has a very positive relationship with African Americans,” adding that two of her grandchildren are biracial. Neither defendant had a previous criminal record, according to Massengale.

Long sentenced Barnett and McCorkle to two hundred hours of community service and a $500 fine each, while also ordering them to reimburse UNC-Chapel Hill $1,326 in costs for labor and supplies to remove the graffiti from the two monuments. Barnett was additionally fined $100 for public urination and indecent exposure. The sentence also includes eighteen months of unsupervised probation. If they violate probation, the two could serve ninety days in jail.

Barnett and McCorkle turned down a plea deal last month.

Long dismissed charges of ethnic intimidation against the two defendants. He noted that North Carolina’s ethnic intimidation statute, which has been on the books since 1991, is narrowly written to specify “another person” as the victim of assault or property damage on account of race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin.

“My belief is they are not guilty of ethnic intimidation,” Long said. “I think they intended to intimidate a whole race of people, not a person.”

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