The protester who climbed a ladder to help bring down a Confederate soldier statue was arrested Tuesday, and Sheriff Mike Andrews said his office will pursue felony charges against others.
“Let me be clear, no one is getting away with what happened,” Andrews said.
Takiyah Thompson, a member of Workers World Party and student at N.C. Central University, was arrested after activists held a press conference at NCCU Tuesday afternoon.
In a release Thompson said she was the one who tied a rope around the soldier’s neck so that others could pull the statue to the ground.
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The protest left The Confederate Soldiers Monument, dedicated on May 10, 1924, headless on the grass.
Thompson was charged with participation in a riot with property damage in excess of $1,500 (Class H Felony) and inciting others to riot where there is property damage in excess of $1,500 (Class F Felony), the Sheriff’s Office said.
She also was charged with disorderly conduct by injury to a statue and damage to real property, both misdemeanors.
At the press conference, activists demanded all charges be dropped and that Gov. Roy Cooper call for immediate removal of all Confederate statues across the state.
The group also demanded Durham city and county leaders attend “mass public forums to allow the community to speak-out about their concerns for public display of Confederate statues.”
In a social media post Tuesday, Cooper announced he was calling upon the legislature to repeal a 2015 law that prevents removal or relocation of monuments. Cities, counties and the state must have “the authority and opportunity” to make these decisions, he said.
“My first responsibility as governor is to protect North Carolinians and keep them safe,” Cooper said. “The likelihood of protesters being injured or worse as they may try to topple any one of the hundreds of monuments in our state concerns me. And the potential for those same white supremacist elements we saw in Charlottesville to swarm the site, weapons in hand, in retaliation is a threat to public safety.”
‘The boys in gray’
Monday’s rally began around 6 p.m. as more than 50 people gathered in front of the now Durham County administration building. They chanted. They shared their experiences in Charlottesville, Virginia and demanded that people fight racism across the South.
Sheriff’s deputies recorded the event but did not intervene as a protester climbed a ladder amid applause and chants and slipped a yellow, bungie-like cord around the soldier’s head and arm.
Protesters chanted “We, we are The Revolution” and cried out, “You can’t, stop The Revolution.”
They tugged the yellow cord.
And the statue did a somersault, collapsing against the stone pedestal in front of the old county courthouse on East Main Street.
Demonstrators kicked and stomped the soldier in front of the cameras the sheriff says his officers are now using to identify those responsible.
On Tuesday, Thompson said she helped take down the statue because she was tired of living in fear.
The monument was dedicated to “the boys in gray,” she said.
“It’s white supremacy. Plain and simple,” she said. “And it had to go”
Durham County Manager Wendell Davis said Durham County does not condone the unlawful desecration of a public monument.
Davis said what started as peaceful event ended with “unfortunate action.”
Andrews said protest is an American right, but protesters cannot damage property or injure other people.
“We know what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. Three people lost their lives and 19 people were injured,” Andrews said. He does not want that to happen in Durham, he said.
“We can all agree that yesterday went too far,” Andrews said. “This is not the Durham I know.”