For the last several days the various personalities and institutions of the state’s mass-incarceration apparatus, the “criminal justice system,” have publicly blamed each other for their failure to convict the Durham activists charged with removing the statute commemorating the “violent defense of human enslavement,” as our lawyer so eloquently described it. We condemn the remarks by Judge Battaglia referring to Assistant District Attorney Ameshia Cooper as the “third string” and as having “very little experience” as not only inaccurate, but racist and sexist.
The mass popular movement in Durham, with national and international support, forced the system to give us the benefit of the law denied to most defendants. It was our political pressure and the presence of the media that forced the court to strictly and fairly apply the law and the rules of evidence. The evidence gathered by the sheriff and presented by ADA Cooper would likely have resulted in a conviction for any other defendants on any other day in almost any court in the U.S. This is not an admission; the evidence against us was not legally sufficient. The cases against us were properly dismissed after three fair trials.
For most defendants, the promises of “due process,” “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and “innocent until proven guilty” are beyond empty. They are cruel reminders of a hypocritical system upholding structural racism where over 90% of defendants do not get a trial; instead they are “convicted” by being forced to plead guilty in order to get out of jail. Under the racist, inhuman, and unconstitutional system of cash bonds, accused often spend months in jail before any opportunity for a trial. A guilty plea is their only hope of a quicker release.
Thanks to the continuous solidarity and ongoing pressure against state repression of anti-racist fighters, charges were also just defeated against Chris Brazil in Durham, who was arrested demonstrating against the Klan on August 18th, and DeAndre Harris from Charlottesville.
Now we will continue to fight to drop have the charges dropped against Corey Long and Donald Blakney in Charlottesville, the protesters charged while protesting Trump’s inauguration on J20, and Greg Williams and Rann Barr-On in Alamance County. Fighting white supremacy is not a crime!
Until we abolish the state’s racist mass incarceration apparatus, we must fight for each defendant to have the benefit of what we experienced: a fair trial. All defendants should at least have the benefit of equal protection of the law. The moral of our case is not that the sheriff or the district attorney did a below average or inadequate job investigating and presenting their case. It is that we received the rare benefit of a fair trial denied to most. The prosecution’s case and evidence viewed under the routinely inadequate legal process would have been more than enough to force a guilty plea or acquire a conviction in most cases, in which defendants are not really treated as “innocent until proven guilty” but as guilty and subhuman from the beginning in this brutal racist system.