Eyewitness Durham: Felony charges dropped against freedom fighters!

Durham anti-racist activists outside county courthouse on Jan. 11.

The following is an eyewitness account of the Jan. 11 court hearing for eight activists who tore down a Confederate statue in Durham, N.C., on Aug. 14, 2017. On Jan. 13, WWP comrades along with community members will hold a People’s Tribunal, putting on trial those who enforce racist injustice. For more, see workers.org/2018/01/08/durham-hosts-peoples-tribunal.

There was a good show of support at the Durham County Courthouse today. About 40 to 50 people were here inside the courtroom to #DefendDurham, including the eight defendants. I thank you all for your continued support and for helping to defend against white supremacy.

The mood in the court is set up to be depressive and pensive because of the oppressive way that the courtroom is designed to make you feel: as if you are lower than the lowest of lows in life. You already know the makeup of the courtroom: 90 to 96 percent of the courtroom attendees are Black and Brown people. The other 4 to 10 percent are white people, and most of those folks work for the court in some capacity.

The proceedings are an assault on one’s intelligence. The formalities, such as the court roll calling the names of the defendants, is done in such a way that it seems like a cattle call or a modern-day slave auction.

The lovely thing about today was that when each of our comrades was called during the roll call, many people in the courtroom yelled out, “Witness!” The court didn’t seem to revel in my joy over this.

As each of our defendants were called up, an assistant district attorney requested a new court date, which was set for Feb. 19. The attorney for the defendants, Scott Holmes, told Judge Fred S. Battaglia that there was “no objection” from the freedom fighters for a trial on that date.

When we got up to leave in unison, it was a great show of support, and definitely made an impression on the court. My heart is so full.

The felony charges were dropped. The misdemeanor charges are now as follows: Defacing a public building or monument, Class 3; conspiracy to deface a public building or monument, Class 2; injury to real property, Class 1. Each of these charges carries no potential jail time, depending on prior convictions.

The state has their witnesses, and so do we. We are the people, and the people said loudly, bravely and ferociously that we stand up to white supremacy at any cost, because the payoff is a world with one less symbolic statue to racism. The government, in fact, owes the eight defendants about $536,000 for their swift removal of the statue.

We look forward to the trial. If you would like to see what actions of solidarity you can perform in the meantime, please visit doitlikedurham.org.

Thompson is a Workers World Party candidate and the mother of Takiyah Thompson, one of the arrestees.

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