(Reuters) - The University of North Carolina will seek a “safe, legal and alternative location” for a Civil War Confederate soldier statue that was toppled last week on campus and criticized as a symbol of the South’s legacy of slavery.
Chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement on Friday the statue known as Silent Sam has a place on the school’s campus in Chapel Hill where its history can be taught, “but not at the front door of a safe, welcoming, proudly public research university.”
The university will submit a relocation plan by Nov. 15, the chancellor said.
The effort to do away with Confederate monuments such as Silent Sam gained momentum in the United States three years ago after avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine black people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. The rampage ultimately led to the removal of a Confederate flag from the statehouse in Columbia.
Since then, more than 110 symbols of the Confederacy have been removed across the nation, with more than 1,700 still standing, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group. Many of the monuments were erected in the early 20th century, decades after the Civil War’s end in 1865.
Silent Sam went up on the university’s campus in 1913 with a dedication ceremony steeped in racism, Folt said. Over years, many have seen the statue - given to the school by the United Daughters of the Confederacy - as a symbol of fallen soldiers that was appreciated by bereaved relatives, the chancellor said.
“We need to respect that, apart from the anger and hatred that has been expressed, there are different meanings attached to this monument by different people in our communities,” Folt said.
Last week, protesters pulled the statue down with rope, cheering as it lay face down in the mud. Several were arrested and at least four people charged with destruction of property, university officials said.
More arrests have resulted from subsequent clashes at the monument site. At a protest Thursday night, about 50 people, some waving Confederate battle flags, rallied in support of the statue and were met by more than 200 counter-protesters. Police kept the groups apart and deployed tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Kirk Bado in Chapel Hill, North Caroline and Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Osterman