(Reuters) - Police on Monday arrested two people over the vandalism of a memorial to slaves and African American workers who helped build the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a campus still roiled by last year’s toppling of a Confederate monument.
The Unsung Founders’ Memorial, erected in 2005 at UNC’s flagship campus, was vandalized at about 1:30 a.m. on March 31 by two people, including one with ties to a group called Heirs to the Confederacy, the university police said.
Vandals wrote racist language on it with permanent marker and defaced it with urine, police said, adding that the suspects were later identified through security video.
Media outlets, including news website Chapelboro.com, said Nancy McCorkle, 50, of Newberry, South Carolina and Ryan Barnett, 31, of Sanford, N.C., were arrested on misdemeanor charges of vandalism and ethnic intimidation, and released on bond.
A police representative was not immediately available to comment to Reuters early on Tuesday, and it was unclear if McCorkle and Barnett had legal representation.
In a statement after the vandalism, the university’s interim chancellor, Kevin Guskiewicz, said the individuals wrote “racist and other deplorable language” on the monument, which features a round, 6-foot- (1.83-m-) wide tabletop supported by numerous bronze figures.
The act came about seven months after the toppling of a 105-year-old Confederate statue called “Silent Sam.” The downed statue’s remaining pedestal became a flashpoint for protests before it was removed in a controversial decision.
The effort to scrap Confederate monuments gained momentum in the United States after avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine black people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015.
That rampage led ultimately to the removal of a Confederate flag from the statehouse in Columbia.
The group Heirs to the Confederacy held events in support of “Silent Sam” last year, including prayer services, it said on its website. A representative was not immediately available for comment.
If the latest allegations prove true, the group would take “whatever punitive measures” are necessary, its chairman, Lance Spivey, told the New York Times.
Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Clarence Fernandez