A University of North Carolina graduate student facing discipline for splattering blood and paint on the university’s now-toppled Confederate statue, “Silent Sam,” walked out of her hearing Friday over a conservative judge appointed to the sentencing panel.
Student journalists covering the trial reported that Maya Little and her supporters walked out during the second day of her Honor Court hearing after it was revealed that one of the students sitting on the court had been vocally supportive of Confederate monuments and once dubbed student protesters “petulant children” for decrying Silent Sam.
The adjudicator in question, Frank Pray, has previously led conservative groups on campus and made comments defending the controversial statue on social media. The historic monument was pulled down by protesters on Aug. 20 and had been a source of contention on the campus for decades.
It wasn’t long before clashes erupted between Confederate sympathizers and students who opposed old Silent Sam. Some of the protests turned violent, however, and resulted in arrests.
“Defacing a memorial that is for North Carolinians who lost their lives defending our state, no matter who the attacking force was, is really wrong …,” Pray told a local news station about a prior vandalism of the statue.
After Little had left the room, the court sanctioned the young woman to 18 hours of community service and a written letter of warning, The Daily Tar Heel reported. Little was found guilty of “stealing, destroying, damaging, or misusing property belonging to the University or another individual or entity” and ordered to pay restitution for the damages.
The decision comes just weeks after UNC Chancellor Carol Folt apologized for the university’s past ties to slavery and injustice toward African-Americans as the university celebrated its 225th birthday.
Her punishment came of little surprise, however. What came as a shock was news of Pray’s staunch support for the Confederate statue, detailed in various online posts (some of which Pray admitted deleting) drudged up by Little’s supporters in the middle of the hearing, Splinter News reported. With the revelation came concerns about the fairness of the trial, which Little argued was impossible so long as Pray was sitting on the court.
“I was not informed of who was chosen to be on the panel to determine whether I can continue my studies until 4 p.m. yesterday when the panelists walked into the hearing after me,” Little said in a prepared statement in the hallway.
She continued: “When I asked why Pray had not recused himself or been dismissed, I was told that a motion to dismiss, to recuse, to even discuss could not go forward, [and] that the ‘stage’ of trial where I could bring that up had passed.”
As reported by The Daily Tar Heel, it was presiding officer Amelia Ahern who insisted Prey could be impartial and remain on the panel since none of his comments specifically addressed Little’s vandalism of the statue. Little and her supporters disagreed.
“I do not believe the honor court aims to give me a fair and impartial trial,” Little said. “ … Despite having half a year to discover the bias that students found immediately, the Honor Court gave me less than five minutes to object to Pray’s place on my panel.”
“In light of his advocacy for the Confederacy, should Pray be given the right to decide my fate, the way that slave owners were once given the legal power to decide the fate of black people accused of crimes?” she added.
Little has three months to complete her community service.