In August 2017, Virginia declared a state of emergency after a "Unite the Right Rally" turned violent in response to the pending removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. One counter protestor died in Charlottesville sparking a mass removal of Confederate statues across the United States. In Durham, North Carolina, protestors forcefully tore down a Confederate monument on August 15, 2017. The UNC-CH administration, however, chose not to continue the trend and remove the statue from campus.
On August 22, 2017, the first day of classes of the fall semester at UNC-CH, a protest was organized called "The first day of Silent Sam's last semester". Hundreds of protestors gathered to find that Silent Sam was surrounded by police and two layers of barriers. The protest carried on for hours and involved multiple arrests while also spilling onto the streets of Chapel Hill. The protest transformed into a sit-in where people camped out 24/7 next to the statue for a week.
Protests continued over the next year and included noise protests in front of administration buildings and student activists actually covering the statue with their own blood. The year of intense protests culminated on August 20, 2018, when students and activists marched on the statue and surrounded it with large banners. After a few hours and a march that disrupted traffic in downtown Chapel Hill, protestors made their move. At approximately 9:20PM a dozen protestors used a rope to tear down the statue. Protestors proceeded to celebrate and cry tears of joy in response to the removal.
Since then, pro-Confederate groups have counter protested around the remaining pedestal bringing Confederate flags onto campus. They argue that this was a defacement of Southern History and that the statue needs to be reinstated immediately. These individuals have clashed with the protestors who tore down the statue and has led to police use of pepper spray and smoke grenades to dispel the crowds. Under intense pressure, the UNC-Ch administration has promised to decide on the statue’s fate by November 15, 2018.