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The day 'Durham stood up'

Nearly four months after rumors of a KKK rally and concerns about a resulting clash with counter-protesters shut down the Bull City, questions remain.

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Kelly Hinchcliffe & Tyler Dukes
DURHAM, N.C. — '

var chatNames = { ''first-chat'': [''Jim Groves, Durham County'',''Jodi Miller, Durham County'',''Bo Ferguson, City of Durham''], ''second-chat'': [''Wendell Davis, Durham County'',''Durham Commissioner Heidi Carter'',''''], ''third-chat'': [''Tom Bonfield, City of Durham'',''Bo Ferguson, City of Durham'',''''], ''fourth-chat'': [''Tom Bonfield, City of Durham'',''Charlie Reece, Durham City Council'','''']}All morning, the emails poured in. Some were angry and derogatory. Others sympathetic or at least respectful.

But the vast majority made one opinion in particular clear: The people arrested after the toppling of the Confederate monument at the Old Durham Courthouse didn''t deserve to face felony charges.

Posted Dec. 11, 2017Story by Kelly Hinchcliffe & Tyler DukesYet in the early hours of Aug. 18, city and county leaders were less concerned about the handful of people charged with felony vandalism a few days before than they were about the event that had precipitated the takedown. Polo-clad white supremacists gathered with Tiki torches in Charlottesville, Va., to rally, and in their resulting clash with counter-protesters over the weekend, a 20-year-old white man from the group was charged with mowing through a crowd in a Dodge Charger, killing a young woman.

Now, local leaders feared, a similar rally was headed to Durham.

As 2017 winds to a close, that hot, fraught Friday in August remains a memorable one in the eyes of Durham residents and officials, none of whom can remember a similar protest that shut down businesses and government offices. Hundreds of pages of public officials'' texts and emails, as well as interviews with people on the ground and huddled in government command centers that day, fill in many of the gaps of how the rumor of a rally shut down the center of one of North Carolina''s largest cities.

"It wasn''t a typical Friday in local government by any means," said Jodi Miller, Durham County''s general manager of community and public safety.

But four months later, two questions remain unanswered: Who started the rumors – and why?

Your browser does not support the video tag.The warning came from an unknown source to the sheriff''s office: The Sons of Confederate Veterans would demonstrate at the old courthouse at noon on Friday, Aug. 18.

Was the information the sheriff''s office received accurate? How should the county and city prepare? Durham''s law enforcement leaders huddled at 7:45 a.m. that day to discuss their options.

From the beginning, Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis thought it would be a "non-event," she later told city council members. Police get information on a regular basis about groups possibly coming to the city, she explained. But during the meeting, the sheriff and county leaders decided the tip was serious enough to immediately activate their Emergency Operation Center and Unified Command Center. They wouldn''t share anything publicly — not yet.

Within hours, Durham leaders began hearing new rumors.

"Just heard KKK Will be at Admin at 1200. 30 or more people," Jim Groves, Durham County director of emergency management, texted two city and county officials at 9:05 a.m.

Fri, Aug 18, 9:05 AM Just heard KKK Will be at Admin at 1200. 30 or more people Just let WD know. 10-4 And as those rumors spread, fears of potential conflicts grew.

"Intelligence indicate that the 12:00 protest is growing. The White Boys, a fascist open carry (guns) group will be joined by the KKK and maybe others," Durham County Manager Wendell Davis texted county commissioners at 9:41 a.m. "I''m closing our building, CJRC [Criminal Justice Resource Center] and Engineering on Parrish Street at 10:00... I''ll be in touch later...."

Fri, Aug 18, 9:41 AM Commissioners      Intelligence indicate that the 12:00 protest is growing. The White Boys, a fascist open carry (guns) group will be joined by the KKK and maybe others. I''m closing our building, CJRC and Engineering on Parrish Street at 10:00... I''ll be in touch later... Thank you for letting us know and for your careful management. As the county manager prepared to close buildings, word began to spread at the courthouse a few blocks away.

Already in the building that morning for one of his cases, attorney T. Greg Doucette was called into a conference with the judge and opposing counsel. Deputies had told court officials about the potential KKK rally, and they wanted to delay the morning''s scheduled hearing.

Your browser does not support the video tag."They were trying to get everyone who had business at the courthouse handled as quickly as possible so they could get as many people out of downtown as possible," Doucette said in a recent interview.

He did likewise, calling the other lawyer in his downtown firm to send her home and rescheduling their appointments for the rest of the day.

From there, the message spread to social media: white supremacists were headed to the Bull City.

Durham lawyer Scott Holmes was among the first to share the information on Twitter. He had just wrapped up court appearances for his clients charged with toppling the Confederate monument. As he left the courthouse that morning, a Durham sheriff''s major tipped him off that the KKK was coming, he said.

Holmes tweeted what he was told at 9:44 a.m. to his nearly 1,000 followers.

"First appearances are done, White supremacists arrive at noon," he wrote.

"I thought the people I represent would want to know that information," Holmes said in a recent interview.

One minute later, Durham City Councilwoman Jillian Johnson shared Holmes'' tweet with her 3,000 followers and added her own message.

"White supremacists are marching at the new courthouse in Durham at noon today," she wrote.

Johnson''s tweet took off, amassing 186 retweets and 70 "likes." Within minutes, city and county officials took notice of the social media chatter and began texting and emailing screenshots of Holmes'' and Johnson''s tweets to colleagues, sending them with "high" importance.

Johnson did not respond to WRAL News'' requests for interviews.

Word was spreading fast. Reporters began contacting Durham leaders. Were the rumors true? Had the KKK applied for a permit to rally? The onslaught of questions prompted city and county leaders to meet again – this time at City Hall.

Around 10 a.m., everyone gathered in Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield''s office – the police chief, sheriff, mayor, county manager, county commissioner chair and various staff. For an hour, they discussed the rumors and how to prepare if counter protesters clashed with a possible KKK rally. The death of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old killed during the Virginia protest, weighed heavily on the room.

"We had seen what had happened in Charlottesville ... where a vehicle careened into the crowd," Bonfield said in a recent interview. "That was certainly a high priority, to be sure that we had a plan in place that would keep whoever showed up to protest from being exposed to vehicles."

Together, the group crafted a plan to close streets and put up barricades in case a copycat driver tried to plow through pedestrians. If any protesters gathered, the sheriff''s office would handle them. City police would handle anyone on the outskirts of the contained area. They also made plans to have communications staff correct erroneous rumors that the KKK had been granted a permit to protest.

As the leaders met, an automated alert went out to county employees at 10:09 a.m.: as officials had discussed earlier, several downtown county buildings were closing immediately.

"Employees assigned to these buildings are instructed to leave for the day and take their belongings with them. All other County employees should avoid the downtown area!"

dc.embed.loadNote(''//www.documentcloud.org/documents/4113983-Wendell-Davis-Email-20170818/annotations/391133.js''); View noteMeanwhile, city buildings remained open, leading to some uneasiness and uncertainty among city staff.

"Our employees [are] starting to buzz over county closing," Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson texted his boss, Bonfield. "Bev [Public Affairs Director Beverly Thompson] & I drafted a message to employees. Check your email to review/approve ..."

"Circumstances between here and county locations are significantly different," Bonfield responded.

"Understood — not worried about a threat here, but lack of info from us + county closure has employees doing what employees do. Our statement was intended to settle nerves — if you prefer we send nothing, will certainly follow your wishes," Ferguson wrote.

"Ok. I don''t have time to review anything so let Beverly know if she wants to send something out go for it," Bonfield replied.

Fri, Aug 18 Our employees starting to buzz over county closing. Bev & I drafted a message to employees. Check your email to review/approve ... Circumstances between here and county locations are significantly different Understood — not worried about a threat here, but lack of info from us + county closure has employees doing what employees do. Our statement was intended to settle nerves — if you prefer we send nothing, will certainly follow your wishes Ok. I don''t have time to review anything so let Beverly know if she wants to send something out go for it. At 11:22 a.m., Ferguson emailed city employees to address the protest rumors and assure them that city leaders were "carefully monitoring the situation" and "taking precautions to ensure the safety of employees and visitors at City facilities downtown."
dc.embed.loadNote(''//www.documentcloud.org/documents/4321374-Ferguson-email/annotations/391338.js''); View note

As the rumor mill churned, it appears law enforcement did make some efforts to confirm what they had heard.

Chris Barker, imperial wizard of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, said his group based out of Pelham, N.C., never planned a rally in Durham – and told the sheriff''s office as much when they called.

"Every time I go anywhere, I apply for a permit," Barker said in a phone interview last month.

Barker said his group did march in Charlottesville, and he heard the same rumors about Durham the day protesters rallied downtown.

"We were just sitting back watching it," Barker said.

Jake Sullivan, division heritage officer for the North Carolina chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said his organization had no plans to hold any event in downtown Durham that day and does not participate in rallies. He said law enforcement never contacted the SCV about the rumors, despite the fact that several members had been in touch with the sheriff''s office earlier in the week over the downed monument.

"We never at any point had anything to say about coming down there and staging anything," Sullivan said. "That''s not something we would do or suggest that we would do."

He said his organization has frequently decried white supremacist groups and the KKK and is very careful to distance themselves from their actions, despite the fact that "they hijack our symbols constantly."

As for the "White Boys," the outfit referenced in county leaders'' texts, it''s unclear that it even exists. Neither the Southern Poverty Law Center nor the Anti-Defamation League, which both track the activities of hate groups, have any information about an organization by that name.

"Initially, there was limited information on the identity of the group. Even so, everyone in the briefing discussed preparation for a potential event," Tamara Gibbs, spokesperson for the sheriff''s office, said in an email. "Ultimately, the Sheriff''s Office was unsuccessful in its attempts to identify this group and verify the initial intelligence it had received."

In a Sept. 20 "after-action report" reviewing the incident, emergency management from the city and county concluded, among other things, that the pace of information in both traditional and social media meant "intelligence validation was difficult for law enforcement." dc.embed.loadNote(''//www.documentcloud.org/documents/4325257-Sheriff-s-Office-After-Action-Report/annotations/392420.js''); View noteBoth the Durham sheriff and the city police chief declined multiple requests for interviews.

By 11:30 a.m., several downtown Durham businesses began closing in response to the rumored rally, including SunTrust bank and Scratch Bakery. The Downtown Durham YMCA and the YMCA at American Tobacco soon followed.

When he arrived back at his Main Street office from the courthouse, Greg Doucette said he learned five other law firms in his building planned to close up shop.

"By the time I get to my office, the street has been blocked off by the sheriff''s department," Doucette said.

Meanwhile, city and county leaders continued texting and emailing each other, trying to get updates and sort fact from fiction.

Among those looking for information was Durham City Councilman Charlie Reece, who first heard the rumors as he sat in a coffee shop downtown. He noticed the tweets from his fellow city council member, Johnson, and Holmes, the Durham lawyer, warning that white supremacists were coming.

Reece reached out to a fellow attorney who works in the courthouse and then the city manager at 10:45 a.m.

"Do you have any information on the rumors flying around about a potential march by white supremacists in downtown Durham today?" Reece asked the city manager. "I''m seeing reports that some downtown businesses are closing early, and that some county buildings have been closed and employees sent home. Not sure if any of that is true, thought I''d reach out."

Fri, Aug 18, 10:45 AM Do you have any information on the rumors flying around about a potential march by white supremacists in downtown Durham today? I''m seeing reports that some downtown businesses are closing early, and that some county buildings have been closed and employees sent home. Not sure if any of that is true, thought I''d reach out. The rumors were partially true. But would white supremacists show up? No one seemed to know. Reece skipped his plans to workout at the gym, changed shoes and started walking toward the old courthouse.

As the August sun blazed overhead, he regretted not putting on sunscreen. By 11 a.m., the heat index was a sweltering 102 degrees, but it didn''t stop Reece – or the hundreds of other people descending on downtown Durham.

As Reece continued walking, he saw the crowds move in.

"The streets were already filling with people," he said.

Your browser does not support the video tag.Chiquetta Harris Leathers was scrolling through Facebook at her Durham home that Friday morning when something caught her eye. First a cousin, then several other friends, posted cryptic warnings: The KKK was headed to Durham. They''re going to march downtown. Today.

A quick phone call to a friend seemed to confirm the rumor, and it added a detail. Durham residents were gathering for a counter-protest at The Pinhook, a bar a few blocks up from the recently downed Confederate monument, ready to push back against the presence of white supremacists.

She works from home, and with only a few hours notice, she couldn''t reschedule an upcoming conference call at noon. So she started preparing in advance. She walked the dogs, showered and dressed.

But she needed a sign. On a two-foot-tall easel board among her supplies, she ripped out all but one of the white pages and scrawled a message in purple marker.

"You''re Not Wanted in the Bull City! We are the city of LOVE/Unity!" In the corner, in smaller letters, she wrote "Fuk You KKK!"

"I''m sorry," Harris Leathers said in a recent interview. "They come into Durham and that''s how we do."

She packed a bag with water and other essentials but paused at the thought of her handgun. It could be like Charlottesville. It could get violent. Would she need to protect herself? But without a concealed carry permit, she would have to carry it openly. Things might escalate.

"This could get out of hand," she said. "Let me just carry my bat."

She could leave that in the trunk of her car — just in case.

When her call ended, she was ready.

"Literally, I got off the phone, threw on my tennis shoes, and I was gone," Harris Leathers said.

For the first time in her life, she was headed to a protest.

"It was a sense of urgency," Harris Leathers said. "I had to do this for my ancestors, my grandmother."

And she had no idea what to expect.

Anti-KKK marchers on the steps and around the old courthouse in Durham, North Carolina on Friday Aug. 18, 2017 (Beth Jewel/WRAL contributor).

By the time he reached The Pinhook, Greg Doucette was already sweating through his suit.

An avid Twitter user with more than 22,000 followers, he posted photos of sheriff''s office trucks blocking vehicle traffic as he walked down Main Street and sought information from other users about where the rally would be.

"No one had a firm idea of what was going on," Doucette said.

But when he arrived at Main and Mangum streets, he found anti-KKK protesters, not the Klan. A crowd had swelled behind a large black banner proclaiming "We will not be intimidated" aside the double-flag logo of antifa, a collection of far-left-leaning anti-fascist militant groups who often show up at events to oppose Nazis and white supremacists. Despite a heat index that had climbed to 103 degrees, some protesters wore masks or bandanas. A few others carried weapons, and one man had a rifle slung along his back.

A few minutes after noon, the time white supremacist groups had been rumored to show up somewhere in Durham, Doucette broadcast live on Periscope as hundreds of people began to march south down Mangum chanting "No justice, no peace."

"It seemed like a lot of people were not afraid at all," Doucette said. "If someone showed up, there was going to be confrontation."

He followed them down the block as they marched.

Your browser does not support the video tag.Chiquetta Harris Leathers sat in her parked car downtown and surveyed the scene just off Main Street. She didn''t see the KKK, or at least anyone who was obviously affiliated with the group.

A couple of white men wearing white polos, khakis and red baseball caps walked swiftly by and made her nervous. Was it them? Were they out here?

"I took a deep breath, and said, ''Now it''s time.''"

On Main Street with her sign, she followed the stream of bodies headed to the old courthouse. Looking around, she felt safe despite what had happened in Charlottesville, despite a random assortment of weapons in the crowd that included one man with an ax.

Even so, when she struck up a conversation with another Durham resident, the two strangers shared emergency contact information and exit plans.

"If things get real, we need to be aware of our surroundings," she said. "To be realistic, you don''t want those things to happen. But it could happen."

It was well after noon, and so far the white supremacist rally was nowhere to be found.

"I don''t think they were prepared for the amount of people that presented themselves so quickly," Harris Leathers said.

Down the street, Sharon Holland wasn''t surprised by the size of the crowd, which various estimates put between 300 and upward of 1,000. The professor of American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had wrapped up a day of prepping for her upcoming classes early and made the trek from campus.

"Just because people aren''t saying how they feel in public all the time doesn''t mean they don''t have public feelings about what''s going on in our country right now," Holland said in a recent interview. "It demonstrated the strength of commitment."

In the crowd, she saw activists and community members, professors and government staffers. As someone who has participated in protests since the anti-Apartheid Free South Africa Movement, she said the atmosphere in Durham was by far one of the most charged she''d seen.

"It was so beautiful to see people standing up," Holland said.

There''s little evidence from the day that any white supremacists actually showed en masse. Video captured by a WUNC reporter did show two white men near the courthouse in a shouting match with an encroaching crowd shortly after noon.

Protesters wearing orange safety vests stood between them and a taunting crowd.

"Once we got around to the statue, there were two individuals there who I believe were white supremacists," Durham City Council member Charlie Reece said. "That''s a fair summary of their worldview as they expressed it to me over the course of the 20 minutes or so they were there."

They hung around at the edge of the crowd for a while, he said, and were joined by a few others.

"Eventually, I''m guessing they lost interest and went away," Reece said.

To protesters like Holland, the threat of a white supremacist rally was enough.

"One doesn''t want to doubt the veracity too much," Holland said. "One wants to act."

Anti-KKK marchers on the steps and around the old courthouse in Durham, North Carolina on Friday Aug. 18, 2017 (Beth Jewel/WRAL contributor).

A little more than a mile away on Watts Street, the staff at Beth El Synagogue was nervous.

Like others in the city, they had heard the rumors of the white supremacists rally. And like others, they thought of Charlottesville the week before, where staffers at a synagogue watched as a crowd of neo-Nazis surged past, shouting "Sieg Heil" and hurling anti-Semitic epithets.

Beth El had received no threats, but a synagogue member had alerted them that Durham government offices were closing, lending some credibility to the potential rally. Rabbi Daniel Greyber and the rest of the staff needed advice.

So they reached out to the State Bureau of Investigation.

"They advised us to evacuate the building and go home as a precaution for the safety of our staff members," Greyber said in an interview.

Patty McQuillan, a spokesperson for the SBI, said the agency had no credible information that the KKK would show up at the rally when Beth El staff reached out. She said an agent didn''t explicitly tell them to leave, but that it might be a good idea to put any emergency procedures they had in place if they felt unsafe.

To Greyber, the message was clear.

"Honestly, in a moment like that, the most important thing is to rely upon the rule of law and the protection of the agencies that are entrusted with the community''s safety," Greyber said. "We did not know what to do, and when were advised to do that, we weren''t going to argue."

For the first time in the history of the synagogue, staff moved most of their Torah scrolls, the holiest religious items in the faith, out of the building for safekeeping. Two of the scrolls they left in the building for Saturday prayer – an act of defiance.

"We were not going to cancel services the following morning because we did not want to give that control or power over to the KKK or whoever," Greyber said.

By the early afternoon, the synagogue was empty.

The balance between maintaining calm and taking action, Greyber said, is a difficult one to strike. He worried that being too slow to react would mean dismissing real dangers. Driving home with the scrolls, and placing them carefully on his guest room bed at home, he felt a mixture of anger and sadness.

"How much control, how much power am I giving to those forces of negativity in our society?" Greyber said. "It''s a moment that can''t be undone."

As protesters gathered in downtown Durham to rally against the rumored appearance of the KKK, attendees said the atmosphere turned celebratory.

By 2 p.m., the heat index hit 108 degrees on the streets of Durham as dancers, drummers and protest leaders armed with megaphones rallied on Main Street.

News reporters and photographers marched along, trying to get the perspective of those who gathered as helicopters hovered, monitoring the situation from the sky.

Volunteers handed out water and lemonade, and protest marshals tried to usher the crowds into the shade. A group at the courthouse set fire to a homemade Confederate flag, its stars swapped out for white hooded figures, and cheered as it burned. On the plinth of the toppled Confederate monument, someone scrawled "Death to the Klan."

In the meantime, other rumors were circulated and debunked. Another KKK rally was scheduled for 4 p.m.? No permit was ever issued for that, and no one had applied for one. Sightings of white supremacists in trucks? No clear confirmation of that.

"Lots of confusion going around today," Wendy Jacobs, chair of the Durham County Board of Commissioners said in an email around 4 p.m.

dc.embed.loadNote(''//www.documentcloud.org/documents/4112439-Aug-18-2017-Durham-police-chief-emails/annotations/391096.js''); View noteA few minutes later, Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield emailed staff with an update and said he was "troubled by all of the inaccurate information." That was especially true of the permitting process, which he heard a lot about as he watched coverage of the protest and fielded questions from reporters and local officials throughout the day.

"Part of my frustration was people [who] continued to put that out there or continued to ask us, ''Did we [grant a permit]?''" Bonfield said. "Don''t you think if we''d done that, we''d have let somebody know? Why would people think we would just do that and not say anything to anybody? It doesn''t make any sense to me. But that''s just part of what happens when emotions get hot."

Even if the KKK or another group had applied for a permit, the City of Durham could not automatically deny it, according to the city manager.

"Like it or not, they would have the same rights to apply for a permit as any other organization," Bonfield said. "There may be circumstances that we wouldn''t give a permit, but it''s not solely because of the organization that''s requesting one."

Protesters gather in downtown Durham to demonstrate against the rumored appearance of the KKK.

After a few hours at the courthouse, Chiquetta Harris Leathers headed back down Main Street and to her car. She hadn''t regretted her decision to leave her gun at home — and the bat in her trunk.

She had come here alone. But the entire time, as sweat poured down her back in the August sun, it felt like she was among neighbors.

"I had to be there to represent what Durham stood for and what I''ve been through," Harris Leathers said. "We weren''t going to accept racism, even though we deal with that on a daily basis."

City Councilman Charlie Reece left a "festive" atmosphere downtown before 4 p.m. and went home to have a shower and a beer. He estimates the crowd peaked at around 1,000 or so that day, a gathering that felt spontaneous. He marveled at the turnout, especially as an elected official who depends on volunteers to help him knock on doors during campaigns.

"When the Klan says they''re going to come to your town, or when folks hear that the Klan may be coming to our town, Durham stood up," Reece said.

Still, the protest created "collateral consequences" for downtown employees and businesses, City Manager Tom Bonfield told city council members at a September work session.

"We kind of say everything turned out just fine, but there was very tangible impacts on the rest of downtown, and maybe people don''t care about that," Bonfield said during the meeting. "There were probably hundreds of employees that didn''t get paid that day because they were sent home. And I think we can''t just gloss over that."

While the protest was mostly peaceful and "very celebratory" at times, Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis said, she was bothered by the "dangerous" actions of a few protesters who openly carried weapons, including guns and an ax, at times walking alongside other protesters pushing children in strollers.

"That''s something we were totally caught off guard about, didn''t expect, especially at a counter protest like this," Davis said in a city council meeting weeks later. "We probably identified 12 to 15 individuals who were open carry, which I have never seen before in my career."

Your browser does not support the video tag.By 6 p.m., after protesters spent hours traveling between the Durham courthouse, jail and police department, police made the decision to clear the streets of dwindling protesters for rush-hour traffic.

Clad in black riot gear as a news chopper watched live overhead, officers formed a dark line on the sun-bleached pavement of Duke Street, marching south in lockstep.

"Move back. Move back. Move back."

In monotone voices, mobile police force commanders repeated the demand, trying to get protesters out of the intersection at Duke and Jackson streets.

"We gave them three separate warnings in 1-minute intervals, which is typically the practice – to give people an opportunity to think about it and go ahead and move on their own," Chief C.J. Davis explained as she showed body camera video from the scene to city council members weeks later.

The riot gear, she said, was a reaction to the weapons officers spotted earlier in the protest.

"Durham can have protests without police having to put on riot gear, without them having to protect themselves because somebody else has a long gun out there," Davis said. "You have a long gun, my officers have to have long guns."

In the end, police said one man refused to budge. Officers arrested William D. Fulton, 23, of Durham, and charged him with failure to disperse – the police department''s only arrest from the protest.Separately, the sheriff''s office later issued warrants for two men they identified and charged with carrying weapons to a public event. And two city police officers were treated for heat-related illnesses.

Around 6:30 p.m., about 75 to 100 protesters remained at Willard and Jackson streets. Some chanted. Others stood on the sidewalk or did interviews with the news media off to the side in the grass. An hour later, after the crowds had scattered, officers surveyed the streets and confirmed the protest was over.

At 7:45 p.m., police finally began their stand-down operation as Durham stood down, too.

As the heat and humidity relented with sunset, Sheriff Mike Andrews received one of his final text messages of the day from an unnamed sender — even as debate over the origin of the day''s rumors continued online.

"Regardless of what the peanut gallery says, you and your department showed why so many of us support and trust DCSO. It''s been a crazy week, but I think [I] need to say it you handled it as well as it could be handled. No one was hurt – the only property damage was a statue the community wants down. Great job."

At the end of a long, hot day, protesters in Durham faced off briefly with police, but dispersed peacefully (Adam Owens/WRAL).

Days later, Rabbi Daniel Greyber packed up the Torah scrolls and other items he''d removed from the Beth El Synagogue as fear of white supremacist groups had mounted.

He was joined by members of the synagogue, who wanted to help return their sacred objects back to the place where they worship. One member of the group took note of a nearly century-old parallel — his family had once hidden similar items from Nazis in Europe ahead of the Holocaust.

"It was surreal to think that we — in Durham, in 2017 — had taken this even as a precaution," Greyber said.

Whether the KKK showed or not, Greyber said his congregation will remember Aug. 18, 2017. But he said it will also remember the messages of support from pastors of local churches and other communities. And the hundreds of counter protesters who showed up to outnumber the sentiments that sparked chaos in Charlottesville the week before.

"Part of why these moments are so fraught for our community and our society is the potential for violence and for things to spiral out of control. I felt a tremendous sense of hope and gratitude for the strong presence which was peaceful and came to say, ''This is not who we are.'' The KKK doesn''t define us," Greyber said. "This is not who America is."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the State Bureau of Investigation had no information about the rumored KKK rally when the staff at Beth El Synagogue called. The SBI had been monitoring the rally that morning and had "no credible evidence of the KKK," being at the rally spokesperson Patty McQuillan said.

ADDITIONAL CREDITS: Design by Tyler Dukes. Map graphics by John Renigar. Images by Suzie Wolf and Beth Jewell. Video by Tom Normanly, Ed Wilson, Mark Stebnicki, Keith Baker, Pete James and Jill F. Knight. Additional reporting by Cullen Browder, Lena Tillett, Gina Benitez, Sarah Krueger and Adam Owens. Editing by Jodi Leese Glusco. Texting interactive used with permission from Emory Parker, The Post and Courier.


Reporters Kelly Hinchcliffe  

Copyright 2017 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.