Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols recently confirmed he’s dropping felony charges against eight protesters who toppled a Confederate statue in North Carolina last year.
Leftists recorded themselves scaling an anonymous rebel statue outside of an old courthouse building in Durham on Aug. 14, when they pulled it to the ground and stomped and spit on the crumpled monument, the Associated Press reports.
The incident occurred two days after a clash between white nationalists and anti-fascists in Charlottesville, Virginia that sparked other protests nationwide.
Police watched and recorded the stunt in Durham, but did not take action to stop the destruction.
Initially, a dozen protestors were charged with a variety of crimes related the incident, but charges were dismissed against three people, and another agreed to a deferred prosecution deal. The remaining eight were charged with felony rioting and misdemeanor property damage, but Echols announced Thursday that he dropped the felony charges.
“I only plan to try them on the misdemeanors,” he wrote in an email.
Despite the leniency, supporters of the defendants and others continue to seek “social justice” for those charged. At a hearing Thursday, supporters chanted “witness” in unison as each defendants name was called, Fox News reports.
Some of those accused still contend they did nothing wrong.
“After Thursday’s hearing in Durham, two of the defendants said they believe that taking down the statue was the right thing to do, not a crime. They said supports have been calling Echols’ office to urge that the charges be dropped,” according to the news site.
“We want the courts to recognize what the people have been saying: that challenging and defeating white supremacy is not a crime,” Jess Jude said.
Co-Defendant Qasima Wideman told the AP the agitators plan to use their upcoming Feb. 19 trial to recruit more radials to their cause.
“Our hope is also that the trial and keeping this issue in the public view will help to ignite more people to feel empowered to fight racism and white supremacy in all its forms,” Wideman said.
Wideman spoke amid a throng of supporters toting banners and picket signs reading “Defend DACA! #DoItLikeDurham” and “From Durham & Charlottesville to the White House Team Down Racism.”
The Durham Human Relations Commission, the People’s Alliance and the Jewish Voice for Peace Triangle NC, have defended the activists and called for Echols to drop all charges, while the state’s division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans have expressed “outrage and disgust” with any failure “to pursue full justice in this matter against the self-styled communists and activists that took the law into their own hands,” according to The Herald-Sun.
North Carolina, Virginia and several other southern states have laws that prevent local officials from removing most Confederate monuments. A top Democrat in Virginia proposed to change that with a bill introduced this week, though it’s unlikely the Republican controlled legislature will approve the measure, the new service reports.