Si­lent Sam re­port finds de­fi­cien­cies at UNC but no sign of con­spir­acy to top­ple statue

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Local - BY JANE STANCILL js­tan­[email protected]­sob­server.com

An af­ter-ac­tion re­port on the Aug. 20 top­pling of the Si­lent Sam Con­fed­er­ate statue found “se­ri­ous de­fi­cien­cies” in the way it was han­dled, but “no ev­i­dence of a con­spir­acy” be­tween the UNC-Chapel Hill ad­min­is­tra­tion and pro­test­ers to bring down the mon­u­ment.

The 64-page re­port, con­ducted by the Parker Poe law firm and or­dered by the UNC Board of Gov­er­nors, was re­leased Fri­day by the UNC sys­tem.

The anal­y­sis de­ter­mined that the statue came down be­cause of a con­flu­ence of events, in­clud­ing in­ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween se­nior lead­ers and UNC po­lice, in­ad­e­quate plan­ning for protest events and a lack of pro­to­col on de­ci­sion-mak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity re­gard­ing law-en­force­ment. The univer­sity “strug­gled to com­mu­ni­cate, pre­pare, and ex­e­cute their plans for the Au­gust 20, 2018 demon­stra­tion, which ul­ti­mately re­sulted in the top­pling of Si­lent Sam.”

The re­port con­cluded that the pro­test­ers were “in­fin­itely more wellor­ga­nized” than UNC ini­tially an­tic­i­pated. “Mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween Univer­sity Po­lice and UNC-CH se­nior lead­er­ship com­bined with in­ef­fi­cient and in­ad­e­quate in­for­ma­tion-gath­er­ing, in­suf­fi­cient staffing, and out­dated crowd con­trol train­ing made pre­vent­ing what hap­pened on Au­gust 20 dif­fi­cult if not im­pos­si­ble to achieve,” the re­port said.

Among the find­ings was in­ad­e­quate early staffing plans by UNC Po­lice for the Aug. 20 protest. The as­sign­ments for po­lice per­son­nel were made us­ing Sign Up Ge­nius, an on­line ap­pli­ca­tion, in which the po­lice depart­ment asked for seven vol­un­teers.

On the morn­ing be­fore the protest, ac­cord­ing to the re­port, it be­came clear that more of­fi­cers would be needed for the event. “Sev­eral of­fi­cers noted that the 9:00 a.m. briefing left them feel­ing ap­pre­hen­sive and un­easy about the protest later that day,” the re­port said.

In the end 22 cam­pus po­lice from Chapel Hill were on the scene for the event.

The study also brought to light poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion among po­lice and for­mer UNC-Chapel Hill Chan­cel­lor Carol Folt about whether po­lice should erect bar­ri­cades around the statue on the night of the protest. Bar­ri­cades were not used as they had been dur­ing a pre­vi­ous protest the year be­fore.

The re­port said that Amy Her­tel, chief of staff to Folt, met with Derek Kemp, as­so­ciate vice chan­cel­lor for safety and risk man­age­ment three days be­fore the protest. There, Kemp told Her­tel the protest was likely to be a one-sided event, as op­posed to a protest and counter protest. He also told her that po­lice planned to use bike bar­ri­cades at the event and Her­tel ques­tioned the pro­pri­ety of us­ing them, the re­port said.

“While there is sig­nif­i­cant ev­i­dence that bar­ri­cades can serve as force mul­ti­pli­ers for po­lice in con­trol­ling crowds, some per­ceived bar­ri­cades could also be op­ti­cal eye­sores,” the re­port said. “Her­tel was also con­cerned that bar­ri­cades might cause new stu­dents and their par­ents to fear for their safety on move-in week­end.”

Her­tel said she would dis­cuss it with Folt. Later that day, Her­tel called Kemp and told him Folt did not want bar­ri­cades put up in the days prior to the event, but the is­sue should be re­vis­ited on Mon­day, the day lead­ing of the protest. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, Kemp re­called that that Her­tel told him it was Folt’s “pref­er­ence” or “de­sire” not to use the bar­ri­cades at all.

Folt re­mem­bered it dif­fer­ently, the re­port said. “Chan­cel­lor Folt did not be­lieve that she ad­dressed the is­sue in those terms, but is con­fi­dent that she did not is­sue a di­rec­tive or or or­der not to use bar­ri­cades on Au­gust 20,” the re­port said.

On Aug. 18, Kemp told the UNC po­lice chief, Jeff McCracken, that Folt did not want bar­ri­cades “be­cause of what it would look like to stu­dents and their par­ents on the first week­end of the aca­demic year.” McCracken was skep­ti­cal, the re­port said, but did not over­rule or re­visit the is­sue -- and the next day told a po­lice cap­tain to can­cel the bar­ri­cades.

On Jan. 14, Folt an­nounced her res­ig­na­tion, the same day she or­dered the base of the statue re­moved from cam­pus. She cited se­cu­rity threats, and said she had the le­gal au­thor­ity to do so, de­spite pre­vi­ous state­ments that UNC lacked the au­thor­ity due to a 2015 state law that pre­vents the re­moval of “ob­jects of re­mem­brance.”

Her an­nounce­ment sur­prised the UNC sys­tem’s Board of Gov­er­nors, which then acted to shorten her time as chan­cel­lor. Her last day was Thurs­day.

An in­terim chan­cel­lor could be an­nounced this week.

UNC’s ex­ec­u­tive vice chan­cel­lor and provost, Robert Blouin, is­sued a state­ment Fri­day about the re­port. “We ap­pre­ci­ate the find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions brought for­ward by the Af­ter-Ac­tion Assess­ment Re­port,” he said. “We be­lieve the learn­ings from this re­port will ben­e­fit not just Carolina, but other Sys­tem in­sti­tu­tions as well.”

JU­LIA WALL [email protected]­sob­server.com

A crowd gath­ers around the top­pled Con­fed­er­ate statue known as Si­lent Sam last Aug. 20 at UNC-Chapel Hill.

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