Durham County

8 now face charges in toppling of Confederate statue in Durham

Four activists turned themselves in Thursday, bringing to eight the number of people charged in the toppling of the Confederate statue in downtown Durham on Monday.

Taylor Alexander Jun Cook, 24, turned himself in Thursday afternoon.

Three others – Raul Mauro Arce Jimenez, 26, of Durham; Elena Everett, 37, of Durham; and Aaron Caldwell, 24, of Raleigh surrendered at the Durham County magistrate’s office Thursday morning.

All four faced warrants charging them with three misdemeanors – disorderly conduct by injury of a statue, damage to real property valued at more than $200, and damage to real property – and two counts of felony inciting a riot to cause property damage in excess of $1,500.

About 100 people gathered outside the Durham County courthouse on Dillard Street around 8 a.m. Thursday and walked down the street to the jail to support those charged.

“Today means unity. Today means strength. Today means community,” Jimenez said. “And today means we won’t stop this fight against racism and bigotry and white supremacists,.”

Initially activists announced that people facing warrants would turn themselves, along with others who planned to surrender in solidarity with them.

“Dozens are here to take responsibility for the removal of that statue, which should make it clear that there are so many of us that support what happened,” said Serena Sebring, a regional organizer with Southerners on New Ground who was not at Monday’s protest.

“All us of are willing to share the cost of our freedom,” she said. “All of us are here, and we are willing to take whatever responsibility, whatever consequences come along with the removal of that statue.”

Lamont Lilly, who ran for vice president in 2016 on the Workers World Party ticket, called for the removal of Confederate monuments across the country, ending “white supremacy” and “structural racism” in judicial institutions, and supporting those who have been arrested, including Takiyah Thompson.

Thompson, who was arrested Tuesday, is a member of Workers World Party and a student at N.C. Central University. She climbed a ladder leaning against the Durham County monument Monday night, and slipped a yellow strap over the brass Confederate soldier standing on top.

The crowd pulled the strap, and the soldier tumbled down, the head collapsing on itself. Protesters cheered and started kicking it.

Entry restricted

The plan for others to symbolically surrender to authorities Thursday was thwarted when officials at the jail, where the magistrate’s office is located, blocked their entry into the building.

The activists then walked back to the courthouse to attend a 9 a.m. hearing for the three people arrested Wednesday.

Peter Gull Gilbert, 36, Dante Emmanuel Strobino, 35, and Ngoc Loan Tran, 24, all of Durham, walked into the courtroom with their lawyer Scott Holmes, a private attorney and law professor at N.C. Central University.

As they walked down the courthouse hall, they passed a long line of activists outside courtroom 4D. Deputies only let in reporters and those on the court calendar.

Ruby Sinreich was one of many questioning why they weren’t allowed to enter the court.

“I am a citizen of Durham, and I should be allowed to observe what is happening,” Sinreich said.

The Durham County Fire Marshal determined the crowd posed a security risk and restricted entry to defendants on the court docket and employees, the Sheriff’s Office said.

All of those arrested were released on unsecured $10,000 bonds, which means they didn’t have to put money up to be released. The Durham Solidarity Center is raising money to pay for potential bail and other related fees for activists.

The judge on Wednesday gave the first three people who were arrested a court date of Sept. 12.

After the court hearing, activists walked back to the jail to wait for those who had turned themselves in Thursday morning. Reporters and cameras circled them.

“They processed us, we received our paperwork, and now we have court tomorrow,” Everett said.

Charges questioned

City Councilman Charlie Reece has said he asked Sheriff Mike Andrews not to press felony charges against the accused, and UNC Chapel Hill School of Law Professor Joseph Kennedy said he too questions the basis of the felony charges.

The Sheriff’s Office says at least one estimate to repair the statue exceeds $130,000, said spokeswoman Tamara Gibbs.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, nearly 3,700 people had signed an online petition demanding that the Sheriff’s Office drop all current and potential future charges.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges

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