Will the Felony Charges Against Defend Durham Demonstrators Be Dropped? | Durham County | Indy Week
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Will the Felony Charges Against Defend Durham Demonstrators Be Dropped? 

Attorney Scott Holmes said Tuesday morning that the Durham County district attorney was dropping felony charges of inciting a riot against a group of activists who toppled a Confederate monument in downtown Durham this summer.

However, on Tuesday afternoon, District Attorney Roger Echols said in an email, "All charges remain pending. I wasn't in court, but I understand [Holmes] made comments about felonies being dismissed or off the table or something to that effect. Mr. Holmes may be responding to or speaking about what he expects to be the case based on conversations with this office."

Echols added that he couldn't comment on or confirm the the accuracy of Holmes's announcement.

Seven protesters charged in connection with the August 14 demonstration appeared in court Tuesday morning. They also face misdemeanor property-damage charges.

"We've been asking for that all along, and we think that's a reasonable decision," Holmes said.

Three people have already seen the charges against them dropped because there was "no visual evidence" that they participated in damaging the statue. Twelve people had been charged with damaging the statue, and another three are facing charges related to a spontaneous rally against an expected KKK appearance on August 18.

The cases have been continued until December 5.

The group, which calls itself Defend Durham, also announced that it is launching its own "commission of inquiry" to investigate what it called obstruction of justice by the General Assembly in passing a 2015 law that protects Confederate monuments; collusion by elected officials to target poor communities and communities of color; and negligent homicide by Sheriff Mike Andrews for multiple deaths in the jail.

The group says it plans to gather testimony and evidence and present it to a "people's tribunal," where those accused "will be given a full opportunity to present their own defense."

According to a press release, "The Commission of Inquiry seeks to shed light on crimes against the people, including repression and intimidation of organizers and other vulnerable communities impacted by police brutality, immigration raids and deportations, low-wage work, LGBTQ discrimination, and more—which are the true crimes being committed by the general assembly, the Trump administration, local sheriff's department, and others in power."

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