Trial Begins for Eight Durham Defendants in Statue Toppling Case, Days of Action and Call for All Charges Be Dropped Continue


On Monday, February 19, eight anti-racist activists are returning to court for trial following the people’s removal of the confederate statue from in front of the old Durham Courthouse on August 14, two days after white supremacists and Neo-Confederates terrorized, occupied, and brutalized the residents of Charlottesville, VA, resulting in the murder of anti-racist activist, Heather Heyer.

Community members will gather outside for a brief press conference before trial begins to denounce the prosecution of these freedom fighters. Activities are planned throughout the day to support the defendants, including a march later in the evening to begin at the old site of the confederate monument and end at the courthouse to greet the defendants as they leave trial.

What: Press Statement
Where: In front of the Durham Courthouse | 501 S. Dillard St
When: Monday, Feb 19, 2018 at 8:30am

What: Solidarity March & Rally
Where: Starts at former confederate monument, ends at Durham Courthouse
When: Monday, Feb 19, 2018 at 6:00pm

Local organizers and activists have continued to keep the pressure on the DA and Sheriff by coordinating call-in days to demand that all charges be dropped. Since the August 14 action, statements of support have flooded in from across the state and country. Excerpts of some of those statements are included below.

“The statute and others like it are the burdens of Black People. This is our battle with history. These are brutal symbols of hate. The members of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People are indebted to all advocates of change. We are grateful for the witness of millennials for taking matters into their own hands,” reads the statement released by the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People in September.

In a resolution passed by the Durham Human Rights Commission, “The Durham Human Relations Commission affirms the community’s request for the immediate removal of all Confederate memorials, flags, statues, memorabilia, plaques, certificates, or any other commemorative objects which exist on city or county property.” The Commission also called for felony charges against the defendants be dropped.

Just days after the statue came down, DA Roger Echols himself said, “Justice requires that I must take into account the pain of the recent events in Charlottesville and the pain in Durham and the nation. Justice requires that I consider that Durham citizens have no proper recourse for asking our local government to relocate or remove this monument. Justice also requires that I be aware that asking people to be patient and to let various government institutions address injustice is sometimes asking more than those who have been historically ignored, marginalized or harmed by a system cane bare.

Long-time immigrants rights organizer Felicia A shares, “Those responsible for both the inaction and blatant disregard for this community are both city and county government, as well as local law enforcement agencies within the county. Our city government is content with passing resolutions in support of refugees and undocumented immigrants, but what have they actually done to support these communities? Supportive rhetoric will not save our communities from over-policing and lack of support for those who are undocumented. I support the defendants because they are unapologetically taking action against symbols of white supremacy, which continues to overpolice our people.”

Takiyah Thompson was paying attention, and took action, in the bold legacy of her/their ancestors. Now it’s our turn. Let’s organize, mobilize, and stand up for the future we all know is possible.” said Pierce Freelon, a 2017 Durham Mayoral candidate, in a statement of support.

A statement of support came from the Durham People’s Alliance, “The Durham People’s Alliance Board & Race Equity Team support the efforts of the activists who answered the call to dismantle symbols of hate. We ask the District Attorney’s Office to consider the motivations of the protestors and their desire to rid our community of monuments that commemorate domestic terrorism. Given that a pernicious state law prohibits legal action to remove confederate statues, it is our belief that all charges should be dropped against these people who took an action that the rest of us in the community have for too long failed to take.”

One of the defendants, Jess Jude, says the show of solidarity “is not only meaningful because the past 6 months have been grueling as the courts have dragged out our appearances. The solidarity has shown the Durham community is behind us as organizers and activists, and fully supports the fight against white supremacy.”

Steve Gillis, representing the Boston Bus Drivers Union in a solidarity message stated, “We send congratulations on the dismissal in January of the felony charges, and last week’s court victories for our friends charges in connection with the August 18 anti-Klan uprising! We are in continuing awe of your militant daring and organizational abilities in this sickening period of otherwise abject reaction and racist repression.” They are bringing a caravan of over 30 people to support the Durham Defendants going on trial.

Dwayne D. whose charges from the Aug 18 anti-racist rally were recently dropped says, “I and many others stood against the Klan on August 18th, empowered by the courage of these defendants who dared to take on the symbols of white supremacy directly and without hesitation.  I continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with these brave people, knowing their fight is my fight and together–only in unity–we win.”