DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews announced Tuesday morning that the sheriff’s office will be investigating and trying to identify and charge the protesters who took part in the toppling of a Confederate statue outside the old Durham County courthouse Monday evening.
A crowd of protesters gathered outside the old Durham County courthouse on Main Street Monday evening in opposition to a Confederate monument in front of the government building.
Around 7:10 p.m. a woman using a ladder climbed the statue of a Confederate soldier and attached a rope around the statue.
Moments later, the crowd pulled on the rope and the statue fell. One man quickly ran up and spat on the statue and several others began kicking it.
Durham police later said they monitored the protests to make sure they were “safe,” but did not interfere with the statue toppling because it happened on county property.
“Because this incident occurred on county property, where county law enforcement officials were staffed, no arrests were made by DPD officers,” Durham Police spokesman Wil Glenn wrote in an email statement.
Durham County Sheriff’s Office deputies videotaped the statue being brought down — but didn’t stop it from happening.
After toppling the statue, the protesters started marching. They blocked traffic with authorities trying to stay ahead of them. The protesters made their way down E. Main Street to the site of the new Durham Police Department.
In 1924, the Confederate statue was dedicated to Durham.
Engraved on the front of the monument is “The Confederate States of America.”
Above it, was the statue representing a soldier who fought in the civil war.
“Today we got a small taste of justice,” protester Jose Ramos said after the statue was down.
On Tuesday morning, Andrews released a statement saying that “As the Sheriff, I am not blind to the offensive conduct of some demonstrators nor will I ignore their criminal conduct. With the help of video captured at the scene, my investigators are working to identify those responsible for the removal and vandalism of the statue.”
Andrews’ full statement can be read below:
I am grateful the events that unfolded Monday evening did not result in serious injury or the loss of life, but the planned demonstration should serve as a sobering example of the price we all pay when civil disobedience is no longer civil. Before the protest, my staff met with our community partners to discuss how to safely and appropriately respond to the protest. County leaders were aware of the risk of damage to the Confederate statute, as well as, the potential risk of injury to the public and officers should deputies attempt to control the crowd. Collectively, we decided that restraint and public safety would be our priority. As the Sheriff, I am not blind to the offensive conduct of some demonstrators nor will I ignore their criminal conduct. With the help of video captured at the scene, my investigators are working to identify those responsible for the removal and vandalism of the statue.
My deputies showed great restraint and respect for the constitutional rights of the group expressing their anger and disgust for recent events in our country. Racism and incivility have no place in our country or Durham. I am asking both city and county leaders to establish guidelines and safe spaces for protesters to prevent demonstrations from becoming disruptive and as we witnessed in Charlottesville, dangerous. Rightfully, Durham County and the City of Durham have a longstanding respect for the right of peaceable assembly. Recently, the Sheriff’s Office’s decision to arrest demonstrators at a public meeting was challenged in the court of law. My Agency has been the focus of demonstrations for more than a year, most of them peaceful. However, now may be the time for Durham to consider what is the best way to respond to continued protests while respecting every resident’s right to voice their opinion.”
Durham County officials also issued a statement Monday regarding the toppling of the statue:
Our elected officials and senior staff understand the unrest in our nation and community, particularly following the senseless acts that took place in Charlottesville, VA. We share the sentiments of many communities around the nation that admonish hate and acts of violence as we believe civility is necessary in our every action and response. Governmental agencies dedicated to public safety will continue to work collectively to ensure Durham remains a community of excellence where all of our residents can live peacefully, grow and thrive.