University of North Carolina officials condemned Monday night’s toppling of the Silent Sam Confederate statue and announced the school is cooperating with a criminal investigation into the incident.
“The actions last evening were unacceptable, dangerous, and incomprehensible,” UNC System Board Chair Harry Smith and UNC System President Margaret Spellings said in a joint statement Tuesday.
School officials are working with campus police to review video evidence and conduct interviews as part of a criminal investigation, according to the statement.
One person has been arrested for disguising their face during a protest, according to university spokeswoman Jeni Cook.
“The safety and security of our students, faculty, and staff are paramount,” the statement said. “We are a nation of laws ― and mob rule and the intentional destruction of public property will not be tolerated.”
The Silent Sam statue was erected in 1913 and donated to the school by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to commemorate “the sons of the University who died for their beloved Southland 1861-1865,” according to the school.
The statue has long been contentious and a target of protests on campus. The school has spent almost $400,000 in the past year protecting it from vandalism, according to The News & Observer.
Smith and Spellings’ statement was much stronger than the one released by Chancellor Carol Folt on Tuesday morning.
“The monument has been divisive for years, and its presence has been a source of frustration for many people not only on our campus but throughout the community,” Folt said. “However, last night’s actions were unlawful and dangerous, and we are very fortunate that no one was injured.”
Gov. Roy Cooper (D) denounced Monday night’s actions, as well, though he has previously called for the removal of the statue.
North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R) on Tuesday also criticized the toppling of the statue, saying “mob rule and acts of violence” are intolerable, The Associated Press reported. Moore called for protesters who toppled the statue to be arrested and prosecuted.
The UNC History Department has urged the school to remove the statue and move it to a more appropriate location.
“From its inception, the monument was exclusionary and offered a highly selective interpretation of the nation’s history,” the department said. “In the twenty-first century that interpretation is so incompatible with the principles we faculty and this university strive to uphold that the continued presence of the monument in its current location is a threat to the safety of the people of our university and a daily affront.”