Demonstrators knocked down a controversial Confederate statue at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Monday, capping off a night that began as a peaceful protest, school officials said.
The university said a group of protesters toppled the "Silent Sam" Confederate monument on campus at around 9 p.m. Monday as a part of a demonstration urging officials to remove the century-old statue.
At least 250 protesters attended the rally, according to the university, but it’s unclear how many participated in the statue’s destruction.
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt condemned the vandalism in a statement on Twitter after the incident, but said the school understood why people were frustrated.
“The monument has been divisive for years, and its presence has been a source of frustration for many people not only on our campus but throughout the community,” Folt said. “However, last night’s actions were unlawful and dangerous, and we are very fortunate that no one was injured.”
Police are investigating the incident and “assessing the full extent of the damage,” she added. There were no injuries reported.
Some protesters carried anti-white supremacy banners, while other uttered chants like "hey, hey, ho, ho, this racist statue has got to go."
Video posted on social media showed a group draping the monument with a large white tarp, obstructing it from the cheering crowd’s view, before it came crashing down.
The crowd roared as the bronze figure smashed against the concrete. Dozens of police officers surrounded the statue after protesters stomped on it and covered it with dirt.
Seeing the statue’s empty pedestal was “pretty breathtaking,” Manuel Ricardo, a UNC freshman who arrived after statue fell, told The Associated Press. “I heard the statue had come down, so I had to see it myself. ... I think most people here are happy. I’m ecstatic.”
Gov. Roy Cooper's office said it was in contact with local police and the university in the wake of the incident.
"Governor Cooper has been in contact with local law enforcement and UNC officials regarding tonight's rally and appreciates their efforts to keep people safe,” Cooper’s office said in a statement. "The Governor understands that many people are frustrated by the pace of change and he shares their frustration, but violent destruction of public property has no place in our communities."
Cooper proposed moving the Confederate-era monuments last year in the wake of a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year that left one dead and 19 others injured.
The August 2017 rally began over the planned removal of a monument of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.