Release: Defendants Demand DA Drop Remaining Charges, Announce Independent Investigation Into the State

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  November 13, 2017


Durham Defendants Demand DA Drop Remaining Charges, Announcing Independent Investigation Into The State for Obstruction of Justice

On Tuesday, November 14, seven anti-racist activists are returning to court to face charges 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.

A press conference will follow the court appearance where the arrestees will continue to demand that all charges be dropped.  Arrestees will also announce the launch of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate crimes against the people to protect and defend white supremacy and to obstruct justice by thwarting the will of the people through preemption laws.

Where: In front of the Durham Courthouse | 501 S. Dillard St
When: Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 10:30am

As of November 1, 2017, D.A. Echols dropped the felony and misdemeanor charges against Aaron Caldwell, Taylor Cook, and Myles Spignor in relation to the toppling of the confederate statue in Durham on August 14.

Taylor Cook and Aaron “Zan” Caldwell offered this statement: “From the beginning we have held that we, and all other defendants, are innocent of any wrongdoing.  DA Echols did the right thing in dropping the charges against three of us, but we won’t rest until all charges against every defendant are dismissed.  Removing symbols of white supremacy from public spaces is not a crime and was the will of the community of Durham. We will continue to fight until the remaining 12 have their charges dropped, until no Confederate statues remain, until GS100-2 is rescinded, and until all institutions that defend and protect white supremacy have been abolished.”

The #DefendDurham group has gained support from dozens of unions and progressive institutions across the country to support the demands to Drop the Charges and Repeal GS100-2, the preemption law passed by the NCGA in 2015 that stripped the power of local communities to determine if Confederate statues could be removed from their public spaces.  #DefendDurham is also calls for all charges to be dropped against the three community defense activists arrested during the anti-racist uprising that occurred on Friday, August 18 when thousands flooded downtown Durham to chase white supremacists from their town.


On Tuesday, November 14, #DefendDurham will announce the formation of an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate direct and circumstantial evidence on a number of charges of crimes against the people perpetrated by local, state, and federal officials.  In 2015 the North Carolina General Assembly passed GS100-2. The commission of inquiry will investigate and bring forward additional charges and indictments through an independent People’s Tribunal. An initial list of indictments include:


  • Conspiracy and Obstruction of Justice, wherein the NC General Assembly and its elected officials passed into law GS100-2,  which served to unjustly thwart the will of the people by preventing local governments from removing racist monuments;
  • Collusion, wherein North Carolina elected officials and the sheriff’s department pursue actions and policies that result in a pattern of terrorism against communities of color, and collusion by the NC GA with powerful outside think tanks exerting undue influence to draft and pass bills that serve to protect symbols and systems of racism and profit off the misery of poor communities and communities of color.


  • Negligent or Serial Homicide, wherein the Durham Sheriff Mike Andrews is directly responsible for over six deaths inside the Durham Jail, all of them people of color, including 17-year-old “Niecy” Fennel.

The Commission of Inquiry is an independent body, constituted of arrestees, community lawyers, organizers, and directly impacted community members who seek to bring to light testimonies, facts, patterns, and the impacts of unjust laws. Over the next weeks and months, the Commission of Inquiry will gather evidence, and hear testimony. When evidence sufficient to sustain convictions is obtained, the findings will be presented at an Independent People’s Tribunal, where the accused will be given full opportunity to present their own defense.

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.

This Tribunal follows the legacy of the Russell Tribunal, also known as the International War Crimes Tribunal established in 1966 to investigate the United States’ war crimes in Viet Nam. Among the members of the tribunal included James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Stokeley Carmichael. The People’s Tribunal model follows in the tradition of fact-finding and Truth and Reconciliation processes in Latin America, South Africa, in the aftermath of the Iraq War, and in Palestine, that sought to expose repression and seek just reparations for harms perpetrated and protected by the state.  While these tribunals did not have the legal power to impose sanctions, they were charged with answering the questions that those committing crimes against the people refused to answer.