7 September 2018

Protesters Topple UNC Confederate Monument

Drop Charges Against Anti-Racist Protesters!

On the night of August 20, the infamous “Silent Sam” statue of a Confederate soldier at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill was toppled by anti-racist activists as a crowd of hundreds triumphantly cheered. This vile monument was erected under Jim Crow to commemorate UNC students who fought on the side of the slavocracy during the Civil War. In a speech given at its unveiling in 1913, Julian Carr, a UNC trustee and veteran of the Confederacy, bragged that when he returned from the war, he horsewhipped a black woman, right there on campus, for insulting a “Southern lady.” For 50 years, black students and others had protested this racist monument, which served not only as a daily reminder of the degradation of black people but also as a celebration of white-supremacist terror. At long last, a multiracial group of students and faculty, leftists and other activists took matters into their own hands and tore it down—a commendable act.

But the ghosts of the Confederacy are alive and well at UNC: the administration has seen to it that four protesters were charged with rioting and defacing a public monument, while at least ten other anti-racist protesters have been arrested, including at subsequent rallies against restoring the statue. We demand: Drop the charges against all the anti-racist protesters now! This includes Maya Little, a black graduate student and member of the public workers union UE Local 150, who is charged with vandalism for spilling red ink and her own blood on “Silent Sam” in April. She could face expulsion from the university.

Giving the lie to the image of UNC as a liberal bastion in the South, the UNC grandees are deploring the “violence” and “mob rule” of those who tore down this symbol of lynch mob terror. In the same vein, Democratic Party governor Roy Cooper denounced the “violent destruction of public property.” Meanwhile, the chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill seeks to preserve this monument to slavery, perhaps elsewhere on campus, in the guise of “commemorating the fallen.” There should be no illusions that the university administration will stop honoring the racist heritage of this campus founded by slaveowners. The bourgeois administration serves the capitalist class, whose system was built on the bedrock of black oppression.

Ominously, local fascists have mobilized on the Chapel Hill campus in defense of “Silent Sam.” On August 25, members of an outfit called Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County (ACTBAC) carried Confederate flags into a crowd of anti-racist protesters. One of these fascists punched a UNC student in the face—outrageously resulting in the student being cited for affray (fighting in public). Earlier, at the initial August 20 action, a fascist pulled a knife and threatened to kill a graduate student.

ACTBAC carried out another provocation on August 30 when they marched, under heavy police protection, into the middle of a celebration by anti-racists around the statue’s pedestal. Protesters chanting “Nazis go home” and “Cops and Klan go hand in hand” were pepper-sprayed and three were arrested. Anti-fascists had already exposed the fact that one cop at the first “Silent Sam” protest sported a tattoo with the symbol of the Three Percenters, a racist right-wing militia. Rallies to defend Confederate monuments are incitements to deadly racist terror, as shown one year ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, where the fascists rampaged and murdered Heather Heyer. The fascists must be crushed through mass, disciplined mobilizations based on the social power of the integrated labor movement.

In a throwback to the hysteria against left-wing activists in the civil rights movement, the capitalist press and campus administration are decrying the presence of “outside agitators,” including “communists” and antifa. The reformist Workers World Party (WWP) has been singled out, as it was last year for its role in toppling a Confederate statue in nearby majority-black Durham. In a victory for working people and minorities, all the charges against those arrested for that action have been dismissed.

Slavery’s legacy is embodied not only in Confederate monuments and flags but in the reality faced by black people, in the South and the North: segregated education and housing, poverty, rampant police terror and mass incarceration. Black equality cannot be achieved without uprooting and destroying capitalism through workers revolution. That requires building a multiracial revolutionary workers party that stands completely independent of and in opposition to the capitalist Democratic and Republican parties. For black liberation through socialist revolution!

* * *

(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1139, 7 September 2018)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.