No matter the outcome in court – we are more determined than ever
February 19, 2018 marks the beginning of eight trials in Durham County district court.
Our trials begin six months after the people of Durham toppled their downtown Confederate monument. The removal of the statue on August 14, 2017, took place during a vigil and rally with hundreds present, two days after the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA.
Two days earlier, we had watched in horror as dozens of anti-racist protesters were injured, and one, Heather Heyer, killed when a white supremacist member of the American Vanguard Party drove his car into a crowd. Many Durham anti-racist fighters had been in the streets of Charlottesville that day, returning with trauma and scars inflicted by the violent white nationalists who occupied and terrorized the town. We in Durham were determined that such actions could not go unanswered, could not go unchallenged.
Today we face these charges head on. And in turn, we charge the system itself with racism, violence, and complicity in violence against Black and Brown people that has gone on for centuries.
In January, we scored a major victory when our movement beat back the felony riot charges – we did this with statements of supports from unions, churches, and community organizations from around the country, with protest and petitions, and thousands of phone calls to Durham officials demanding – Drop the Charges! Toppling Racism is not a Crime! Today we stand trial on three misdemeanor charges: defacing a public building or monument; conspiracy to deface a public building or monument; injury to real property.
We are gratified that two weeks ago, we won a major victory when all charges were dropped against those who were arrested in connection to the righteous community defense uprising on August 18th when the Klan announced it would be marching on Durham, and over 1,000 residents of Durham flooded the streets to say NO to the Klan!
We want to uplift that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Orangeburg massacre. On February 8, 1968 over 200 students from South Carolina State University, an HBCU, gathered to protest against racial segregation and police violence. The state highway patrol opened fire, injuring 27, and killing three Black men. Samuel Hammond. Henry Smith. And Delano Middleton, a high school student. We honor their sacrifice with our actions, and pledge to continue in this struggle against racism and white supremacy – in our public spaces, and in the police force.
It also marks the 39th anniversary of the Greensboro Massacre, when Black and White workers boldly challenged the Klan and white power structure of Greensboro and were met with deadly violence. That day local law enforcement turned a blind eye as the Klan opened fire, injuring 12 and killing 5 workers rights activists. Even though the entire incident was recorded on video, there were no convictions, every Klan member was aquitted. We honor their memory today.
As we head to court, we are buoyed by the strength and determination of being part of an unrelenting peoples movement for justice. We are walking in the legacy of many freedom fighters that have come before us. They give us the strength and determination to continue to fight racist jails, racist courts, the racism of Durham’s eviction crisis, brought on by gentrification. We will not stop until white supremacy and all forms of oppression and exploitation are defeated. No matter the outcome of the trial, our movements will push forward with more resolve than ever.
We call upon people of conscious to stand with us to work together to bring down the symbols of sites of white supremacy and terror against Black and Brown people. Each day that we struggle brings us one step closer to our liberation, to the day that this system will be dismantled root and branch. Flowers of resistance are blooming from coast to coast – particularly to fight back against the Trump administration’s wide-ranging attacks, but more generally against a system that wants to crush us – and that is precisely why the state is continuing to pursue these charges. Durham set an example on August 14, showing that people have the power and that is a dangerous prospect for the continued existence of the prevailing white power structures.
After our January court appearance, 100 people gathered for a People’s Tribunal to put on trial the real crimes of this society. Attendees mocked a justice system that lets the sheriff’s department off the hook for half a dozen jail deaths, while targeting organizers for fighting a murderous system. Durham chooses to spend tens of thousand of dollars prosecuting anti-racist fighters rather than ensure the material well-being of its residents through housing, jobs, and quality public education. Durham routinely sides with corporations and slumlords rather than its own working families. At the end of the Tribunal, attendees came forth with a unanimous verdict: this system is guilty as hell! And we will not stop in our efforts to deliver this verdict through bold actions and mass organizing.
In the past weeks and months, Durham Mayor Steve Schewel, NC Governor Roy Cooper, and other officials have all made statements calling for the removal of these racist statues. But words alone are not enough. The people who are most directly affected by the existence of the many symbols to white supremacy that still stand need to be the ones that come together to take action to rid them from our communities once and for all.
Our time has come! Our movement will continue until the symbols of white supremacy and the system that upholds them are where they belong: in the dustbin of history.