CHAPEL HILL — Police filed charges Friday against three people accused of helping tear down a century-old Confederate statue during a protest this week at UNC-Chapel Hill
UNC-CH police filed warrants for three people on misdemeanor charges of rioting and defacing a public monument, according to a news release. The release said the three aren't students or employees of the university.
The suspects hadn't been arrested as of midday Friday, said spokesman Randy Young, who declined to immediately release their names.
The department said there could be more arrests. Another protester was charged earlier in the week with misdemeanor counts of resisting officers and wearing a mask shortly before the statue came down.
Several hundred protesters on UNC's campus in Chapel Hill used ropes Monday night to bring down the statue known as Silent Sam. The organized protesters took advantage of a non-confrontational police response to topple the statue that stood since 1913 in a main quad.
Demonstrators started their rally across the street, before marching over and surrounding the statue. To outwit officers, the protesters raised tall banners on bamboo poles, along with banners on the ground, concealing efforts to tie a rope around the sculpture. They then split into two groups. Most marched away as a small group remained behind. The banners were up for about an hour before the groups converged and yanked the statue down, according to videos.
The police response Monday was much different from the response to a similar protest a year ago. In 2017, officers in riot gear faced criticism for heavy-handed tactics after using metal barricades to keep activists from getting near the statue. The portable barriers weren't used Monday, and officers didn't keep protesters away from the statue.
University and legislative leaders have condemned the protesters' actions as "mob rule," demanding a hard look at the police response and a full criminal investigation. The State Bureau of Investigation has been brought in to assist.
University leaders have also noted the protest was highly organized and "unlike any" they'd seen before.
On Thursday, UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt told reporters the university had expected a smaller demonstration and was taken by surprise.
"I will tell you absolutely that we had no anticipation of any plans to tear down the statue," Folt said.
The statue is in temporary storage, and its future is unclear.
Before it was torn down, it had been under constant, costly police surveillance after being vandalized in recent months. Many students, faculty and alumni argued that Silent Sam symbolized white supremacy and asked officials to take it down.
A 2015 state law prohibits the removal of state historical monuments and memorials from public spaces. The statue, which sits in one of the university’s main quads, has been the site of numerous protests and gatherings in recent years. UNC-CH spent nearly $400,000 in the past year to provide security in the area near the statue.