Durham County

Attorney for Durham activists charged in toppling of Confederate statue: ‘There was no riot’

Raw Video: Confederate statue toppled by protesters in Durham

Protesters celebrate after pulling down a Confederate statue in Durham, N.C. Monday afternoon Aug. 14, 2017.
Up Next
Protesters celebrate after pulling down a Confederate statue in Durham, N.C. Monday afternoon Aug. 14, 2017.

The attorney for the eight activists charged with toppling the Durham County Confederate monument said the sheriff is overreaching with the felony charges against his clients.

Attorney Scott Holmes said the decision isn’t up to Sheriff Mike Andrews, but District Attorney Roger Echols.

“He’s not the prosecutor, and that is not his job,” said Holmes, who is also an N.C. Central University professor.

“And it is overreaching because there was no riot,” he continued. “It doesn’t meet the legal definition of riot. There was no violence. There was no threat of violence. The mood was celebratory.”

A Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said the office did consult with the district attorney’s office on the felony charges. Efforts to reach Echols for comment earlier this week were unsuccessful.

Holmes made that statement after the four people who surrendered at the magistrate’s office Thursday appeared in court Friday morning.

All four faced warrants charging them with three misdemeanors – disorderly conduct by injury of a statue, damage to real property valued at more than $200, and damage to real property – and two counts of felony inciting a riot to cause property damage in excess of $1,500.

On Friday a judge set their next court date for Sept. 12, the same day as the four other charged.

Taylor Alexander Jun Cook, 24; Raul Mauro Arce Jimenez, 26, of Durham; Elena Everett, 37, of Durham; and Aaron Caldwell, 24, of Raleigh all appeared in court Friday.

A crowd of supporters lined up outside the courtroom before and during the four people’s court appearance and followed them outside of the courthouse, applauding as they walked down the stairs.

The morning was more subdued than Thursday where about 100 activists marched back and forth between the jail and the courthouse supporting those who were turning themselves in and those who were appearing in court.

Monday’s toppling

A protest in downtown Durham on Monday night left a statue of a Confederate soldier erected nearly a century ago crumpled on the ground.

During an event expressing solidarity with Charlottesville activists pulled a Cadillac limousine carrying a ladder up to a sidewalk near the old Durham County courthouse, according to a search warrant.

They leaned a ladder against the stone pedestal displaying statue. Sheriff’s deputies recorded the event but did not intervene as a protester climbed a ladder and slipped a yellow, bungie-like cord around the soldier’s head and arm and a group pulled the cord.

The statue did a somersault, collapsing against the stone pedestal in front of the old county courthouse on East Main Street.

Protesters cheered and started to kick the crumpled mass.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges