Dec. 4 (UPI) -- Protesters at the University of North Carolina marched in the streets late Monday to oppose plans to build a $5.3 million facility to house a statue honoring Confederate war soldiers.
The outdoor statue, called "Silent Sam," has stood on the Chapel Hill campus since 1913, but backlash due to the Confederacy's perceived racial prejudice has formed in recent years amid a national debate.
That debate intensified in August 2017 when a woman was killed during a "Unite the Right" rally in neighboring Virginia. The North Carolina statue was toppled in August during a student rally and university officials placed it in secure storage.
"We are the only public university to have experienced our nation's history from the start -- war, slavery, Jim Crow laws, suffrage, civil unrest, as well as hope, freedom, emancipation, civil rights, opportunity, access, learning, and great discoveries fostered here," UNC President Carol Folt said in a statement about her plan for the new center.
"All of these subjects will be covered in the proposed center."
Some students, though, called the multi-million dollar center as nothing more than a shrine to Silent Sam and is being done at a time when the university's planning on raising student fees.
"I am hurt but I am not surprised," Qieara Lesesne, president of the Black Student Movement, said at the rally Monday, according to the News & Observer. "I am disappointed to be associated with an institution that continuously seeks to protect and glorify the white supremacists who love to hate us."
The march started downtown but eventually moved on campus where the pedestal to the Silent Sam statue remains. The pedestal, which was guarded by police, was not disturbed and the march ended peacefully.
The university's board of trustees approved the new center Monday as part of a "holistic four-point plan." A detailed report is expected later for consideration by UNC System Board of Governors.