#DefendDurham: Update on battle to end white supremacy

Hundreds say ‘Arrest me too’ for toppling white supremacy statue, 1,000 march next day to squelch Klan rally

A planned march by the Ku Klux Klan was shut down on Aug. 18 in Durham, N.C., by a tremendous and thoroughly multinational outpouring of the community. Upwards of a thousand people gathered downtown after the news of the KKK’s planned march broke earlier that morning.

On Aug. 14, a Durham demonstration against white supremacy and in solidarity with Charlottesville, Va., had heroically toppled a Confederate monument. Eight people charged with being participants were later arrested. The Klan then announced they would march at the site where the monument once stood.

But because of the solidarity and overwhelming response from the local community, the Klan never showed during the day. There were reports that KKK people showed in the evening at an unannounced area, defended by the police.

The Aug. 18 demonstration had the character of an uprising. For nearly seven hours, people held the streets at the site of the toppled monument. They later marched to the jail and faced off with riot cops. People burned Confederate flags, redecorated the former monument with messages such as “Death to the Klan,” and danced and celebrated this momentous victory.

‘Arrest me too’

The day before, on Aug. 17, in a magnificent display of solidarity, about 200 people showed up at the sheriff’s office in downtown Durham. Scores of them volunteered to “confess” to helping topple the statue on Aug. 14. Progressive sportswriter and political analyst David Zirin tweeted that this was a “I am Spartacus,” moment, referring to the film about the leader of the slave revolt in ancient Rome.

In this case the group was collectively accepting responsibility for the action three days earlier. The Durham prosecutor turned down the offer and abstained from arresting the volunteers.

The first person arrested because of the action was Takiyah Thompson, a student at North Carolina Central University and a member of Workers World Party Durham. On Aug. 14 Thompson had climbed up a ladder to the top of the monument and placed a rope around the neck of the statue — people on the ground took it from there. She was arrested the next day after giving a press conference after her first court appearance.

Arrested at or soon after Thompson’s court appearance on Aug. 15 were Dante Strobino, Ngoc Loan Tran, and Peter Gilbert, also WWP members. By Friday, Aug. 18, Aaron Caldwell, Raul Jimenez, Elena Everett and Taylor Jun Cook had been arrested.

Thompson is charged with disorderly conduct, damage to real property, participation in a riot with property damage in excess of $1,500, and inciting others to riot where there is property damage in excess of $1,500. All the defendants face similar charges and have been released with the next court date set — for all — on Sept. 12 in Durham.

The big turnout on Aug. 17 of people in solidarity with those arrested and the next day for the anti-Klan march shows the extent and enthusiasm of the support for ridding the town, and the country, of racist monuments.

Supporters of Thompson and the other defendants ask that you

  • call on the District Attorney’s office to drop all charges against Thompson and all protesters: 919-808-3010
  • donate at to a Freedom Fighter bail/defense fund at Durhamsolidaritycenter.org/bondfund
  • sign the petition at tinyurl.com/y9j4ya4x
  • support Takiyah Thompson at venmo.com/solidarity-takiyah or paypal.me/unrulybabyhair.
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