Eight Now Face Charges in Confederate Monument Toppling | News
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Friday, August 18, 2017

Eight Now Face Charges in Confederate Monument Toppling

Posted by on Fri, Aug 18, 2017 at 6:44 AM

Four more people were arrested Thursday in connection with the removal of a Confederate monument in Durham on Monday, bringing the total number of demonstrators charged to eight.

The four people charged yesterday surrendered to authorities as part of a symbolic mass turn-in this morning. They are Taylor Cook, Aaron Caldwell, Raul Jimenez, and Elena Everett.


The demonstrators are charged with property damage in excess of $1,500 (a Class H felony), inciting others to riot where there is property damage in excess of $1,500 (a Class F felony), injury to real property (a misdemeanor), defacing a public monument (a misdemeanor), and injury to personal property in excess of $200 (a misdemeanor).

Organizers estimated that as many as eighty people lined up at the Durham County jail to volunteer arrest as a show of support for Monday's action. "I am here to take responsibility for the removal of the Confederate statue. I could not in good conscience allow it to stand one more day," they proclaimed. 
click to enlarge A crowd lines up outside the Durham County jail to turn themselves in for Monday's demonstration and removal of a Confederate monument. - SARAH WILLETS
  • Sarah Willets
  • A crowd lines up outside the Durham County jail to turn themselves in for Monday's demonstration and removal of a Confederate monument.

"All of us are willing to share the cost of our freedom. All of us are here and we are willing to take whatever responsibility, whatever consequences come along with the removal of that statue," said Serena Sebring, an organizer with Southerners On New Ground.

Those who were willing to be arrested were asked to line up first. Sebring, who wasn't present for Monday's rally, was one of a few protesters who actually got inside the jail. Jail administrator Colonel Anthony Prignano seemed unaware that the crowd was there to surrender. (The rally had originally been outside of the county courthouse, and protests in front of the jail aren't uncommon). Deputies checked protesters’ names against outstanding warrants and those without were turned away.

"I think they're doing their job, and we’re doing ours," Sebring said.

Sheriff Mike Andrews announced in a press conference on Tuesday that his agency would be pursuing felony charges against the demonstrators and was working to identify participants in Monday's rally, which was filmed by at least one deputy.

On Wednesday Dante Strobino and Loan Tran were arrested during a court appearance for Takiyah Thompson, the first person charged in connection with the protest. Peter Gilbert was also jailed Wednesday.

The Sheriff's Office says additional arrests are expected and that the agency "consulted with the Durham County District Attorney’s Office on two occasions before obtaining arrest warrants."

Much of Thursday's crowd also poured into the jail to support Strobino, Tram, and Gilbert in court, but they were not allowed in the courtroom, which had a capacity of 159. With 106 people already in the room, authorities said allowing more could cause some on the courtroom docket to miss their appearance. Several protesters confronted deputies, asking them to explain why they were being denied access to a public proceeding.

"During the courthouse demonstration, the Fire Marshal of Durham County determined the crowd posed a security risk in the hallway outside of a courtroom that was near full capacity. For this reason, deputies restricted entry into the courtroom to reserve space for defendants on the court docket and employees conducting business in the courthouse," the Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

Before Thursday's rally, Andrews called for a "peaceful demonstration."

"The Sheriff’s Office supports the right to peaceable assembly," the statement reads. "As the custodian of the courthouse, the safety and security of visitors and employees will remain a top priority for the Sheriff’s Office. We have taken steps to ensure the daily operation of the courthouse can proceed without disruption."

Outside of the courthouse, demonstrators, wearing black as a show of solidarity, sang and passed around a notebook to write their names and the contact information of someone who could bail them out of jail.

"We want these symbols of racism removed not only statewide but nationwide," Lamont Lilly, who was the Workers World Party’s vice presidential nominee last year, told the crowd. "We also want an end not only to the symbols because symbols are the surface. We want an end to the complete system of white supremacy and racism—structural racism like this criminal justice system right here, structural racism like the Durham County jail back here, structural racism like the school-to-prison pipeline, structural racism like the criminalization of the homeless and the poor and the oppressed. As we see this building going up behind us and these tall-ass cranes, structural racism also of gentrification and the loss of homes for our people."

Lilly said his home was searched by deputies on Tuesday when he wasn't there.

"They totally trashed the place," he said.

Outside the jail, organizer D'Atra Jackson pointed out that while deputies wouldn't arrest demonstrators offering themselves for arrest for the action taken Monday, much of the jail's population is black and charged with low-level offenses or simply unable to pay bail.

"It's really telling of Durham County and the Sheriff's Office and where their priorities are," she said. According to a report by the Durham Human Relations Commission, 75 percent of detainees in 2015 were black, and 73 percent of those held under a $5,000 bond or less were black.

Although the demonstrators weren't let into the jail, Jackson said the message still got across.

"Our goal was to show them the community of Durham as a whole stands together," she said.

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