Anti-racism protesters surrender themselves to police in solidarity with woman who pulled down Confederate statue

At least 100 people have gathered outside the Durham County Sheriff's Office

Emily Shugerman
New York
Thursday 17 August 2017 15:40 BST
A group protests outside the new police headquarters in Durham before protestors tore down a Confederate monument
A group protests outside the new police headquarters in Durham before protestors tore down a Confederate monument (Casey Toth/The Herald-Sun via AP)

Demonstrators in North Carolina have offered themselves up for arrest in protest of the charges against Takiyah Thompson, a young woman who helped tear down a Confederate statue.

Protesters swarmed the Durham County Sheriff's office on Thursday morning, dressed in black and singing about the “power of the people,” to demand the charges against Ms Thompson be dropped. At least 100 people had assembled by 9:30 am, according to a sheriff’s office employee.

In a letter to the sheriff and other local officials, the protest organisers declared themselves in “full solidarity with ... the brave anti-racist activists who took down the Confederate monument in Durham”. They also demanded the release of two other activists who they say were arrested outside Ms Thompson’s court hearing.

Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews said in a statement that his department supports the right to peaceful assembly, and would work to ensure courthouse business continued as usual.

No one had been arrested in connection with the protest at the time of publication.

Ms Thompson was one of dozens of protesters who had rallied around a statue dedicated to “the boys who wore the grey” on Monday night. The statue memorialised Confederate soldiers who supported slavery and fought to preserve it.

Ms Thompson, who is black, climbed to the top of the Confederate statue on Monday and looped a rope around its neck. Together, the protesters pulled the 93-year-old memorial to the ground.

Police officers largely stood by as the activities progressed, and some even filmed the proceedings. But on Monday night, Mr Andrews announced his intention to arrest those involved.

“[T]he planned demonstration should serve as a sobering example of the price we all pay when civil disobedience is no longer civil,” he said in a statement. “...As the Sheriff, I am not blind to the offensive conduct of some demonstrators nor will I ignore their criminal conduct.”

Ms Thompson was arrested on Tuesday and charged with disorderly conduct, damage to real property, and felony inciting others to riot, among other things. She was released on Tuesday night on a $10,000 bond.

“I chose to [pull down the statue] because I am tired of living in fear,” she told reporters shortly before her arrest. “I am tired of white supremacy keeping its foot on my neck and the neck of people who look like me.”

The Monday night protest came as a response to a white nationalist rally in Virginia over the weekend. The rally – said to be the largest gathering of American white nationalists in decades – was organised to protest the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville. One person died, and dozens were injured, in clashes with counter-protesters during the event.

The rally sparked calls to remove Confederate statues across the country. The mayor of Baltimore ordered the removal of four monuments, while the United Daughters of the Confederacy paid for the removal of another in Florida. The City Council in Lexington, Kentucky has unanimously approved a proposal to remove two statues from the city’s courthouse.

President Donald Trump, however has decried the removal of the Confederate monuments.

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” he tweeted on Thursday. “...The beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”

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