Letters to the Editor

03/23 — What You’re Saying: Mark Rodin, Rod Gerwe, Ahmad Amireh, Kathy Repass, Ralph Matthews, Alan Culton, and Youmna Elkamhawy

Questions for the DA

It appears as though Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols has left Sheriff Mike Andrews and his deputies twisting in the wind. A review of Virginia Bridges’ story about her recent interview with Andrews leads me to ask why Echols did not handle the prosecutions of persons charged with destroying the Confederate memorial statue himself.

A second question is why Echols did not again request the 20 video files the sheriff’s department reportedly provided if he was not aware of them as reported.

Echols’ actions show the kind of sloppiness and possible incompetence demonstrated by his previous two predecessors Mike Nifong and Tracey Cline, both of whom were disbarred. Durham County’s residents deserve better, especially considering the seriousness of the protesters’ actions last August 14.

The reported observation of District Court Judge Fred Battaglia that the assistant district attorney selected to try the cases brought before him needed help is also telling. When Echols claims his office used the evidence the sheriff’s department supplied and said he was “not being critical of the sheriff’s department in any way” Echols is being critical.

Perhaps one of Echols’ challengers in the May 8 district attorney’s primary is being supported by groups who favored tearing the monument down and he wanted to minimize the political damage. However, destroying public monuments no matter how worthy and just the cause should not be tolerated. The perpetrators should be punished and Durham County requires a district attorney who can effectively accomplish that job.

Mark. Rodin


Perplexing and inadequate

I agree that the Confederate statue should have been taken down long ago. But the handling of the case against the defendants charged with illegally pulling the statue down seems both perplexing and inadequate.

First, DA Echols dismissed the charges against the remaining defendants, including Ms. Takiyah Thompson, saying ”it would be a misuse of resources trying the remaining defendants on the same evidence.” Echols’ statement has no logic. While the videos may not have clearly shown the acquitted defendants, videos were available which clearly showed Ms Thompson on the ladder used to pull the statue down. Those videos have been shown on TV, and Judge Battaglia himself stated,”The one person you could clearly see was Ms. Thompson.” Obviously visual evidence which may not be enough to convict one person,can be ample to convict another.

Second, why didn’t DA Echols try his strongest case first, which meant trying Ms Thompson, where videos clearly showed her involvement? It seems that Echols wanted to try the weaker case first, and if hopefully, it failed to get a conviction, it would give him “sort of” an excuse not to try Ms Thompson.

Finally, DA Echols stated, “Obviously we don’t investigate. The sheriff’s department does.” Again an illogical statement, since good prosecutors and police normally communicate with each other and discuss what evidence is available and what is needed to present a good case.

Rod Gerwe


End police exchanges with Israel

In my own experience, having spent my winter break in the West Bank, the tear gas that clouded the vision of my eyes and those of the few hundred protesters around me served as an eye opener to the unjust, militaristic practices the Israel Defense Forces uses against peaceful protesters.

To establish trust between the American people and the police, we have to root out any sources of uncertainty the people have with police practices. Demilitarize Durham, a campaign formed through a coalition of 10 organizations, is hoping to pass a resolution through the City Council to end police exchanges between the Durham Police Department and the Israeli military/police.

Critics of this campaign see it as “singling out Israel” and spreading hate, which is simply a scapegoat to evade the unjust reality Demilitarize Durham is fighting against. If members of our police force went to train with the militaries North Korea or Russia or Egypt, the outrage toward such a dangerous idea would be unprecedented. Why? We all acknowledge and condemn the unacceptable disregard towards human rights these nations practice.

At the same time, so many Americans are more than willing to perform the logical gymnastics it takes to avoid acknowledging the extremely similar practices our dearest ally and supposed “model democracy” in the middle east systematically imposes on its occupied Palestinian population.

No police department needs any exposure to the IDF’s racist practices, and Durham will be a safer city once it commits to ending police exchanges with Israel.

Ahmad Amireh


How’d I miss it?

The New York Times reporter told Judy Woodruff on PBS (March 19) that fired FBI assistant director Andrew McCabe “gave his life for his country.”

I usually keep up with current events. How did I miss the good news?

Alan Culton

Chapel Hill

Bad public policy

I see that President Trump’s new budget is a retread of bad ideas and misguided priorities that most of America strongly opposes. As predicted, his budget would finance his massive tax cut on the backs of ordinary American families who just want to make ends meet each month.

Last year we saw repeated attempts to gut essential programs like Medicaid and SNAP (formerly Food Stamps). And now after giving away $1.5 trillion in tax breaks to millionaires, President Trump and some leaders in Congress want to put these critical basic assistance programs back on the chopping block with cuts, time limits, and restructuring. With 40 million Americans living below the poverty line, this is both bad public policy and just plain wrong.

I urge our members of Congress to make it clear to the President and congressional leadership that they won’t stand for any attempt to unravel anti-poverty programs.

Youmna Elkamhawy


Our right to know

Rep. Adam Schiff has stated that his committee’s investigation did uncover collusion, even though Devin Nunes (who everyone knows is involved in this mess) says it didn’t.

If there is collusion, the American people need to know.

So, as as our very own Senator Richard Burr continues his investigation, I sure hope he’s being honest and forthright. Lying isn’t going to solve anything. Actually, it will have the opposite effect.

The truth WILL come out. The question is whether North Carolina’s senior senator will go down in history for leading an honest committee, or whether the world will remember him as a liar who chose party over national security.

Kathy Repass


My 3 cents worth

First of all,payback is a “motor scooter.” Political meddling and nation building has been standard operating procedure for the CIA, FBI, State Department and the White House from their conception. Putin is just the new kid on the block.

Secondly Rwanda 1994 … genocide. One million dead, 260,000 killed by machetes and agricultural tools (rakes, hoes, axes, etc.). Shouldn’t we start controlling the sale of farm and garden tools and get rid of the Department of Agriculture?

Finally, in 1995 the greatest domestic terrorist act ever committed in this country (to present), 168 women, men and children dead in Oklahoma City. Yet we still manufacture fertilizer, petroleum products, and rent trucks. And all of the industries affiliatedorganizations are alive and well in this country.

That’s my 3 cents worth, and this is not fake news.

Ralph Matthews