After activist Takiya Thompson was arrested for her role in toppling a Confederate statue in Durham, North Carolina, dozens of protesters flocked to the sheriff's office in solidarity to turn themselves in.
Photo by Katina Parker
Following the violent, racist gathering in Charlottesville last week, protesters in Durham, North Carolina gathered on Monday and tore down a state-protected monument to a Confederate soldier. On Tuesday, a woman named Takiyah Thompson was arrested for her involvement in the action. But the community in Durham did not allow the state to single her out: Hundreds of people gathered in Durham today to protest her arrest, and dozens attempted to turn themselves in for helping to remove the statue, in what's been called a Spartacus-style protest.
"It was community members acting with a mandate who pulled that statue down on Monday," said Dr. Serena Sebring, an organizer with Southerners on New Ground (SONG), an LGBTQ advocacy organization that was involved with today's action in Durham.
That same community came out in full force today. "Sixty people lined up to turn themselves in in a show of solidarity with the people who have been charged with felonies," Sebring told Broadly. Some 300 others came to support those who were turning themselves in.
Sheriff Mike Andrews has been seeking information related to the toppling of the monument—yet, when the 60 people arrived "one by one" to turn themselves in for their involvement with its removal, police "would not let us into the jail where we planned to turn ourselves in," Sebring said. To Sebring and the other organizers, this was a clear display of the state's hypocrisy.
Despite the circumstances, however, Sebring described the mood as celebratory. People were willing to "share in responsibility in the removal of this white supremacist statue," she explained. "We consider this a victory."
By refusing to take down the monument and others like it, Sebring and her community feel that the state is supporting values of hatred and derision, embracing a violent, racist past instead of rejecting it. "We feel the sheriff is acting in the interest of white supremacy," Sebring said. "These are remnants of a time when we tolerated white supremacy in open."
According to Sebring, the majority of the Durham community did not want the statue to remain. "People, by and large, saw that statue—which stood on Main Street in our town—as counter to the values we believe in," she affirmed. Though President Trump suggested that such matters are complex, publicly damning "both sides" of the violence in Charlottesville to mass condemnation, Sebring insists that there "is not gray area" when it comes to rejecting symbols of violence against people of color.
Activists in Durham and around the country see this as an historical moment. Sebring said she has seen popular resistance "take on a new and urgent tone" since Trump was elected, and particularly in the past few days. She is hopeful that, by taking "shared risks" in actions against "unjust law," people will stand in unity for these values, which bring the power where it belongs: the people.
"In spite of politicians, who wanted us to wait, and a legal system that actually forbid the removal of that statue, ordinary, every day people came together to stand in their power and say, 'We won't wait. Not in our community,'" Sebring said.