US & Canada

US students topple Confederate soldier statue in North Carolina

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Media captionPolice tussle with protesters before statue falls

Student protesters toppled a controversial Confederate monument at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Monday night.

The statue of a Confederate soldier, nicknamed Silent Sam, has been a target of vandalism and protests for decades.

Some 250 protesters also argued with a handful of counter-protesters, some in Confederate flag T-shirts, media said.

Symbols for the losing side of the American Civil War have become a major flashpoint in a national race debate.

Monday's action is the latest move to dismantle Confederate memorials, which critics call racially offensive, considering the history of slavery in the southern US states.

Supporters argue they preserve American history.

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Image caption The Silent Sam statue before it was pulled down

Protesters, including students, university staff and local residents, pulled down the 1913 statue using rope and buried its face in dirt, student paper The Daily Tar Heel said.

"Last night's actions were unlawful and dangerous, and we are very fortunate that no one was injured," the university said in a statement on Twitter.

"The police are investigating the vandalism and assessing the full extent of the damage."

Protesters gathered to express their frustration at inaction by university leaders and to support a student facing possible sanctions for splashing red ink and blood on Silent Sam in an April protest.

"It's time to tear down Silent Sam. It's time to tear down UNC's institutional white supremacy," student Maya Little, who faces charges, told the crowd on Monday.

No clashes were reported. At least one person was arrested on charges of concealing their face during a public rally and resisting arrest, the university said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Some 250 protesters included students, faculty and local residents

More than 110 symbols have been removed since 2015, and more than 1,740 continue to stand, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

But some southern states have strengthened their laws to protect Confederate statues.

The recent movement to remove Confederate symbols from the 1861-1865 civil war accelerated after the 2015 shooting of nine black churchgoers by a gunman in Charleston, South Carolina.

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Media captionWhy did violent protests begin in Charlottesville over plans to remove a statue?

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