4 Surrender in Toppling of Confederate Statue in North Carolina

The defaced statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee at the Duke Chapel in Durham. Vincent E. Price, president of Duke, said in a statement that he had met with members of the university community to discuss how to deal with strong reactions to the statue.

DURHAM, N.C. — Demonstrators facing arrest in the toppling of a Confederate statue surrendered to the sheriff in this central North Carolina city on Thursday in a show of solidarity with four others who were taken into custody this week.

Dozens of protesters in black T-shirts converged on the Durham County Justice Center before 9 a.m., holding signs reading “Drop the charges” and “Tear down white supremacy.”

Four protesters, who learned that warrants had been issued in their names, then stepped forward and were taken into custody as other demonstrators chanted, “Thank you; we love you.”

“We all wanted and needed that monument gone, and I think that the act of collectively self-surrendering was both a way to show solidarity with each other and show that we are a unified community,” said Qasima Wideman, a member of the Workers World Party, which helped organize a Monday protest in which the statue was toppled.

All eight arrested protesters face felony charges of participation in a riot and inciting others to riot, as well as misdemeanor charges of property damage and defacing a public monument, a spokeswoman for the Durham County Sheriff’s Department, Tamara Gibbs, said. More arrests are possible.

The protest on Monday was held to oppose white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va., last week. On Monday, demonstrators pulled a statue of a secessionist soldier off its base in front of the old county courthouse in Durham.

The hollow metal statue had stood there since 1924 — 59 years after the largest contingent of Confederate troops in the Civil War surrendered just outside Durham — when the United Daughters of the Confederacy bought it from a Georgia manufacturer. It crumpled immediately on impact with the ground.

The statue is being stored in a county warehouse, The Herald-Sun newspaper reported.

When videos of the statue being toppled gained national attention, the Durham County sheriff, Michael D. Andrews, was criticized for not having intervened.

The sheriff’s office was peppered with emails, phone calls and social media messages demanding arrests.

In a video interview on Tuesday with The Charlotte Observer, leaders of a local Ku Klux Klan group criticized Durham law enforcement for not acting. “We’re going to go down there,” said Justin Moore, a grand dragon for the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Later that day, at an impassioned news conference, Sheriff Andrews said: “Durham is my home. I am not an outsider looking in.” He continued: “Some would say my deputies did nothing. Let me be very clear: Don’t mistake restraint for inaction.”

Hours later, deputies arrested Takiya Thompson, 22, a North Carolina Central University student and a member of the Workers World Party, a self-described revolutionary socialist organization, after a news conference in which she talked about climbing the statue to help bring it down.

Three other organizers — Dante Emmanuel Strobino, 35; Ngoc Loan Tran, 24; and Peter Gull Gilbert, 39 — were arrested on Wednesday.

The sheriff’s office and the Durham Police Department have been facing regular protests in this largely liberal city, which has an influential black community and a black mayor, over their treatment of prisoners and the deaths of black and Latino people in their custody.

Also on Thursday, officials at Duke University, in Durham, announced that someone had broken the nose off a statue of Robert E. Lee, one of 10 figures carved at the entrance of the campus’s landmark Methodist chapel.

That chapel was designed in the 1920s by Julian F. Abele, an African-American architect, but the statues were chosen by the carver without input from the architects, according to an article published on Duke’s website. The figure of Lee, positioned between Thomas Jefferson and the Southern poet Sidney Lanier, who was also a Confederate soldier, was criticized by Duke officials at the time for not looking enough like the Confederate general.

“Each of us deserves a voice in determining how to address the questions raised by the statues of Robert E. Lee and others, and confront the darker moments in our nation’s history,” Vincent E. Price, the president of Duke, said in a statement that criticized the vandalism.

A law passed by the State Legislature in 2015 during a debate over a Confederate statue at the nearby University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill forbids cities and counties to remove public monuments without state approval.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a moderate Democrat elected last year, criticized the protesters’ methods. But as warrants for their arrests were being carried out, he announced his own call for the pro-slavery secessionist monuments to be pulled down and for the law protecting them to be repealed.

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