Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Denouement in Durham

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on February 21, 2018

The District Attorney in Durham, North Carolina has dropped the remaining charges against protesters accused of pulling down a Confederate monument there in August.

A few days after the violence in Charlottesville, a group of angry protesters surrounded a Confederate monument on the courthouse grounds in Durham and, as law enforcement watched from the sidelines, pulled it down. The monument had been the subject of a long-running dispute in the community, with the county government claiming they could not take down or relocate the monument because recently-passed state “heritage preservation” laws prohibited local governments from doing so.

The final criminal cases fell apart because prosecutors could not firmly establish that those charged were the persons seen in video of the event:

During Monday’s trials, Assistant District Attorney Ameshia Cooper struggled to introduce evidence and witness statements that clearly connected the defendants with being responsible for toppling the statue.

“The court finds the state has failed to identify who the perpetrator was. … Furthermore, the court has noted there is no evidence of a conspiracy,” District Court Judge Fred Battaglia said after the first trial.

And. . .

Many questions remain in the case, such as why there wasn’t more evidence.

During the toppling, law enforcement stood on the steps of the old courthouse. Some shot video. Also, after the toppling, deputies issued search warrants, went into people’s homes, ripping mattresses, taking computers, paper and other items of people who were charged said at the time.

Echols declined to take any questions after Tuesday’s press conference.

Twelve people were initially charged with two felonies and two misdemeanors after the Aug. 14 demonstration, but Echols later decided to not to pursue the felony charges. He next dropped charges against three of the 12, saying he did not have sufficient evidence to link them to the toppling of the statue.

On Tuesday, Echols also announced that he would dismiss the charges against against Loan Tran, who in December accepted deferred prosecution on three misdemeanors. Tran had also agreed to pay $1,250 in restitution and perform 100 hours of community service.

“In this case, fairness requires that similar cases be treated similarly,” Echols said.

The Heritage-not-Hate folks are, naturally, convinced that this was rigged from the start not to vigorously prosecute in this case.

I said at the time that this was straight-up mob vandalism, and should be prosecuted. Still feel that way.

The much more fundamental problem, that’s been lost in the shouting, is North Carolina’s law that blocks local communities from making decisions about the monuments they themselves own and maintain. (Several other states have these laws, including Tennessee and Virginia, although the latter is the subject of a high-profile case pending right now.) If Durham could have acted to relocate the statue as they had been petitioned to do prior to August 2017, it would likely still be intact at another location. Now they’re left with this:


Update, February 22: The Atlantic has a an article up detailing how both the sheriff’s department and the district attorney failed to make a solid case against those charged with pulling down the statue. Plenty of failures from the very start.


4 Responses

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  1. OhioGuy said, on February 21, 2018 at 10:45 am

    Agree with all your points here, Andy. While, I’m all for a peaceful change of venue for many of these artifacts, I don’t condone their wanton destruction. These buffoons remind me of the Taliban destroying churches, synagogues and even Islamic sites that they find offensive.

  2. Tom Crane said, on February 21, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    What a sad end for a lovely martial monument.

  3. Andy Hall said, on February 22, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    Observation made at The Atlantic Discussions:

    When you deprive local communities of the legitimate means to make decisions that affect them exclusively, where no minority party’s rights are at stake in those decisions (this is a statue, not a decision about who can attend school or eat at a lunch counter), members of the community will often resort to (legally) illegitimate means of making the same change. I wonder how aggrieved state-level officials and Confederate fetishists would feel over such lawbreaking if all other facts were the same, but it had been a statue of Margaret Sanger instead of a Confederate. . . .

  4. httplendonmurrell said, on March 8, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    I am a northerner who was steamed when monuments were being destroyed in a mob mentality. If I travel south I want to see all of the south. Statues, plantations, history, art, architecture etc. Since when do law enforcement officials have the ability to discuss and choose which crimes to prosecute. I am quite sure someone like a mayor or governor made this all go away. I am also sure it was a fine example of the work of an artist who is no longer living and I am sure their family appreciates the artwork being destroyed. Lets just make a universal generic society with no cultural differences like a macdonalds chain. makes me so angry.

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