CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — Gov. Roy Cooper suggested to UNC system officials Monday that they have the legal authority to “take immediate measures” to remove the controversial Confederate memorial known as Silent Sam if they believe there’s “a real risk to public safety.”
He made the statement in a letter that came in response to a written request from high-ranking university officials asking that Cooper convene the North Carolina Historical Commission, potentially the first step in removing the statue.
The letter from university officials cited “significant safety and security threats,” but stopped short of ever directly advocating the statue’s removal.
It was signed by the UNC system’s president, the chairman of the board that runs the UNC system, the chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill and the chairman of the board at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Officials complained of the cost and manpower associated with protecting the statue from attempts to pull it down, just as Confederate monument in Durham recently was.
“Based on our interactions with State and local law enforcement, including the State Bureau of Investigation, an attempt may occur at any time,” the university officials wrote.
Such an attempt could lead to the injury of a “student or other bystander,” university officials warned.
But the officials also warned that removing the statue could also carry risks.
“Moreover, our assessment is that there are real safety and security risks associated with either taking the statue down or leaving it up,” they wrote.
In a message to the UNC-Chapel Hill Community on Monday evening, Chancellor Carol Folt wrote that officials were aware of a possible rally at the monument on Tuesday evening by groups “not affiliated by the university,” but added that, under state law, the school didn’t have the authority to pull the monument down.
In his response to the first letter, Cooper seemed to praise Duke University’s recent decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from the school’s chapel after it was defaced, writing, “Other university leaders have taken decisive actions in recent days.”