'Arrest Me Too': In Powerful Gesture, North Carolina Protesters Lined Up To Turn Themselves In To Police

Talk about solidarity.

Over 100 people came out yesterday in solidarity with the 8 individuals arrested for toppling a Confederate monument outside of the Durham County Courthouse. After the tragic series of events last weekend at a Charlottesville, Va. rally protesting the planned removal of a local Robert E. Lee statue, citizens and local governments across the country are taking action to remove the Confederate statues and monuments still standing in their communities.

Yet, in Durham, North Carolina, communities no longer have a say as to whether these sculptures remain standing. In 2015, North Carolina's state legislature banned local and city governments from removing the monuments at the bequest of their residents. The monuments have been deemed "Objects of Remembrance," and now, to remove them, communities need permission from the state government. 

"That law was put in place in direct response to the black student organizations in North Carolina that were actively pushing to get building name changes on their campuses," D'atra Jackson, co-director for social justice nonprofit IgniteNC, told A Plus. "And they were winning, they were winning."

So, this past Monday, peaceful protesters in Durham, N.C. took matters into their own hands by toppling one of these sculptures, a monument to confederate soldiers, themselves. And, according to local criminal defense attorney T. Greg Doucette, they really had no other option.

"So when you deny the people a voice, you prevent them from having meaningful participation in the political process, civil disobedience becomes their only recourse," Doucette told A Plus.

According to NPR, 8 people have been arrested for the offense.  Since the initial arrests, protesters flocked to the Durham courthouse to turn themselves in in solidarity with those arrested for taking down the monument. 

Participants in the #DefendDurham movement aim to have the charges against those individuals dropped because they say the protesters were acting in the best interest of all people. 

"This was an effort by the community, it wasn't just one person, it wasn't just two people, it wasn't just the people that have been arrested," Jackson told A Plus. "This was an entire group effort and that we know that these statues, and these monuments, and these street names, and these buildings are not representative of us."

As folks queued outside the courthouse, waiting to turn themselves in, activist Serena Sebring told The Herald Sun that they were there to demonstrate their solidarity.

"All of us are here and we are willing to take whatever responsibility, whatever consequences come along with the removal of the statue," she said.

The protesters reportedly hoped that by turning themselves in, they would convince authorties to drop the charges against those already arrested. While that is unlikely to happen, Doucette told A Plus that felony charges will most likely not hold up in court 

"Both the inciting a riot and participating in a riot [charges], both of those require that people be engaged in conduct that is both violent and disorderly," he said. And, he added, law enforcement had already publicly described the protest as nonviolent.

There is an chance that Gov. Roy Cooper could pardon the protesters, but it's considered fairly unlikely. Barring a pardon from the governor, the protesters have a few options. They can hope that the district attorney dismisses all charges. If not, they can take a plea and possibly serve community service and pay a restitution fine, or they go to trial. 

Doucette shared a lesson with A Plus that he said Scott Holmes, an attorney who will be representing at least one protester, had taught him. 

"When it comes to civil disobedience, it's less about the conventional decision as to whether or not you take the risk of being found guilty, as it is a decision on the part of the defendant to decide whether or not they want to tell their story," he told A Plus. "If it's something where they want to be heard and they want to go to a jury trial...  then I tell them we go ahead and prepare the best defense we can and see what happens."

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