Local News

Protesters topple Confederate statue during Durham rally

Posted August 14, 2017 7:26 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 2:05 p.m. EDT

— A group of protesters in Durham toppled a Confederate monument Monday evening.

Protesters chose to gather near the courthouse for a reason, calling the Confederate Soldiers Monument a symbol of oppression and racism.

Several men used a ladder to reach the top of statue, which had been sprayed with cooking spray by authorities to make it more difficult to climb, and it was pulled down with a strap.

"To call attention to how many states in the south still have these Confederate monuments, these symbols that are emboldening and giving strength to the Nazis and the KKK," said demonstrator Qasima Wideman.

Protesters topple Confederate statue during Durham rally

Wideman said symbols like the Confederate statue feel like a personal attack.

"The state is at war with me and with people like me," Wideman said. "Seeing the events this weekend made me feel like this is really a war."

Police did not step in when the ladders went up against the statue. The Durham Police Department said that no arrests were made by officers at the scene because the Durham County Sheriff's Office has jurisdiction over all county buildings and landmarks, including the courthouse where the monument was toppled.

In 2015, the General Assembly passed a state law that prevents the removal or relocation of any monument or memorial unless lawmakers pass legislation to allow it.

“It’s unfortunate, but not surprising, given the environment we’re in. Fortunately, something inanimate was damaged, rather than any person being hurt," said Mayor Bill Bell in response to the incident. "County and city officials will work together to protect each other’s property. We all have to consider the environment in our area. I don’t believe any other property is endangered. I believe the protestors accomplished what they wished to accomplish. But, most importantly, I’m grateful no one was hurt.”

Organizers of Monday's protest said they are anti-racist and anti-fascist and the event was a response to Saturday's demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va., where one protester was killed. Hundreds of other peaceful protesters gathered in Martin Luther King Garden in Raleigh for a similar event.

"We showed up to make racists afraid again, to shout down the Nazis," said demonstrator Alissa Ellis.

Scott Holmes, an assistant professor of law at North Carolina Central University was observing the protest before the statue was toppled.

"I hope that folks have conversations that are civil, that are kind," Holmes said. "It is also important to name racists and name class and name gender discrimination and to hold people accountable who violate those norms."