Local News

Three more charged in Durham Confederate statue vandalism

Posted August 16, 2017 9:28 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 1:39 p.m. EDT

— Three more people were arrested Wednesday in the vandalism of a Confederate statue on Monday night in Durham.

Dante Emmanuel Strobino, 35, and Ngoc Loan Tran, 24, both of Durham, were arrested at the Durham County Courthouse, where a woman who climbed the statue was making her first appearance after she was arrested Tuesday. Peter Hull Gilbert, 39, also of Durham, was arrested Wednesday afternoon.

All three are charged with disorderly conduct by injury to a statue and damage to real property, which are both misdemeanors, and participation in a riot with property damage in excess of $1,500 and inciting others to riot where property damage exceeds $1,500, which are both felonies.

Takiyah Fatima Thompson, 22, of Garner, was arrested Tuesday and charged with the same crimes, and authorities said more arrests are expected.

A group of protesters rallied in Durham on Thursday morning in support of the people arrested.

Thompson and Tran identify themselves as being part of the Durham branch of World Workers Party, a group that identifies itself as a group of revolutionary socialists.

"There's revolutions taking place all across the country right now, and those revolutions won't be stopped," Thompson said after her court hearing.

"We are following a historical legacy of standing up to the powers that be, to these racist, fascist systems, and we're on the right side of history," Tran said. "We're not going to let the police or this jail intimidate us."

The protesters tore the statue down Monday after a white nationalist rally on Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., ended with one woman dead and almost two dozen injured. The events in Charlottesville sparked rallies around the country in support of counter-protesters.

Durham County authorities were using video from the Monday night protest to identify the people involved in the vandalism.

A search of Gilbert's house turned up various documents and computers, but police didn't find the Cadillac limousine and a ladder that investigators said was strapped on top of it and then used in the protest to scale the granite podium on which the statue stood, according to a search warrant.

Sheriff Mike Andrews called the protesters' actions "a blatant violation of the law," but he said no one was arrested during the demonstration because officials worried about injuries in the resulting chaos.

"Don't mistake restraint for inaction," he said Tuesday. "Had I ordered my deputies to engage a hostile crowd, there would have been serious injuries. Statues can be replaced; lives cannot."

Calls to remove Confederate statues are gaining more traction across the country, but a 2015 North Carolina law limits the movement of such monuments. Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday called for the repeal of the law, saying leaving the monuments up could be dangerous.

"My first responsibility as governor is to protect North Carolinians and keep them safe," Cooper said in an online post. "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."

After being released on bond, Tran said she wants to see Cooper take action on removing Confederate monuments.

"Clearly, in Durham, we showed Gov. Roy Cooper that, if he didn't take action, we would," Tran said. "So, to Roy Cooper, we say, 'You're welcome,' because it wasn't his original idea to take down these statues. So, we'll see what actions he takes next, but we want to claim that [pulling down the Durham statue] as a win for the movement. The movement did this."