(Reuters) - Police in North Carolina arrested seven people on Saturday during scuffles at a university campus where demonstrators earlier this week had toppled a statue of a Confederate soldier, a school official said.
Most of those taken into custody face assault charges, Carly Miller, a spokeswoman for the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, said in an email.
Saturday’s protest followed a larger one on Monday when about 300 demonstrators surrounded the Silent Sam memorial, erected in 1913 to honour soldiers of the pro-slavery Confederacy killed during the U.S. Civil War, and used ropes to pull it down.
This was the latest incident in a campaign against Civil War symbols by opponents who say they glorify the South’s legacy of slavery and racism. Supporters view the memorials as emblems of American history.
Three people suspected of pulling down the Silent Sam statue face misdemeanour charges of riot and defacing a public monument, a university police spokesman said on Friday.
Video from Saturday that was shared on social media showed competing rallies, with some waving signs with slogans such as “Destroy White Supremacy,” and others holding Confederate flags. At one point, a man in a wide-brimmed hat punched another man in the face and was led away by police.
North Carolina law requires that the memorial be placed back on the campus within 90 days, UNC board member Thom Goolsby said in a video statement on Thursday. He also said the statue had been “torn down by a violent mob.”
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said during a conference call with reporters on Saturday that officials were assessing what the law required in terms of the reinstallation of the statue.
“I’ve said from the start that I think, in the interest of public safety, I would find a better location - a safe, secure location - for the monument,” Folt said, adding that the ideal place would be one where people could discuss the statue. “If I could do that, that is what I still believe is necessary.”
More than 100 people attended Saturday’s protest, she said.
“We all have to recognise that the Confederate monument is a flashpoint for demonstrations and interruptions on campus and we believe it will continue to be a lightning rod,” Folt said.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, editing by G Crosse