Cases Continued for Durham Confederate Monument Protesters; One Gets Deal for Deferred Dismissal | News

Cases Continued for Durham Confederate Monument Protesters; One Gets Deal for Deferred Dismissal

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Cases for eight people accused of toppling a Confederate monument in Durham this summer were continued Tuesday morning, and a ninth defendant will see their charges dropped after paying restitution and completing community service hours.

Loan Tran received a deferred prosecution agreement, according to attorney Scott Holmes. Tran has until March 26 to pay $1,250 in restitution and do one hundred hours of community service with the Triangle Nonprofit and Volunteer Leadership Center. Once completed, three misdemeanor charges against Tran—damage to personal property, damage to real property, and defacing a public monument—will be dismissed. Tran had initially been charged with inciting a riot and participating in a riot, both felonies, but Holmes said those charges are off the table.

Judge James Hill continued the case of eight other people charged in connection with the August 14 dismantling of a Confederate monument in front of the county administration building to January 11. Three people facing charges stemming from an anti-KKK demonstration on August 18 had their cases continued to February 8.

"What we're here for is for our collective defense," said Dwayne Dixon, who is accused of unlawfully having a gun at the August 18 gathering. "There are a lot of threats coming at us right now. Some of them are financial, like the tax bill. Some of them are on our streets, they're physical. We're looking at threats to our health, our psychic and spiritual well-being, threats to our spaces—we're constantly in this struggle. What's imperative ... is for us to remember that in order to survive, we cannot survive alone. We must survive as a collective."

Both Holmes and Tran declined to say why Tran's case was different from the others. Holmes said Tran is not admitting guilt and declined to comment on how the restitution was determined or how it will be paid. (Durham County commissioners provided a few valuations of the toppled monument to the District Attorney).

"This is my community, these are my comrades, and we know that our fight is going to continue," Tran said.

The Defend Durham movement has rallied around the defendants since the charges were filed, holding demonstrations each time they appeared in court. On Tuesday, supporters gathered outside the courthouse to share their ideas for what should replace the Confederate monument, the base of which remains where it has stood on Main Street since 1924.

Among the suggestions written down or drawn on craft paper were "a water fountain or something useful," "plant a tree that would represent all of the branches of Durham's people," "a big ass statue" of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, and a heart made of intertwined, multi-colored wires.

Mikisa Thompson drew a portrait of a fictional family with the words "My Queer Family." Thompson is the mother of Takiyah Thompson, who was the first person charged in the statue toppling after climbing the monument and looping a tow strap around it. The drawing included two women—one wearing a hijab as a nod to the news that President Trump's travel ban will be allowed to take effect—with a child and a cat.

"I think the world should be more inclusive," she said.

Takiyah Thompson didn't add a suggestion but said the first thing that came to mind was North Korea and "the strength of the power of the people against U.S. imperialism."

"The struggle against imperialism is the same as the struggle against gentrification," she said.

Thompson gave no hints at what Tran's prosecution agreement may mean for the other cases but said she's ready to go to trial and fight the charges. A political science student at N.C. Central, she's working through final exams.

"Even though everyone puts on a brave face, this is really taxing," she said, noting she and her co-defendants have received death threats.

On August 14, protesters gathered outside of the county administration building on Main Street in response to the white supremacist gathering held in Charlottesville the weekend before. The crowd pulled down a figure of a Confederate soldier atop the monument as sheriff's deputies looked on and filmed. Charges, including felonies, were filed against twelve people, although charges against three people were later dropped.

"We have collectively decided that we're not guilty," said Raul Jimenez, one of the defendants. "Durham has decided we're not guilty. How can you be guilty of tearing down white supremacy? It is not a crime to stand up and say enough is enough."


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