Eight people accused of taking part in the dismantling of a Confederate monument this summer are no longer facing felony charges.
The group had faced felony charges of inciting a riot, but Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols told the INDY
"our intent is to try defendants only on the misdemeanors. Once that’s done, the felonies will have to be dismissed."
The arrestees appeared in court Thursday morning. All of their cases were continued to February 19. Judge Fred Battaglia scheduled the cases for trial that day and said they should be resolved then.
"It's starting to get a little age on it," he said in court.
Initially, twelve people had been charged in connection with the toppling of the Main Street monument on August 14. Charges were dropped against three people and a fourth took a deferred dismissal
, contingent upon completing community service and paying restitution.
"We have the whole community of Durham behind us and the whole world is watching," said Raul Jimenez, one of the people charged.
Takiyah Thompson, also charged, said the decision to pursue just misdemeanor charges shows "they don't have a strong case" against the defendants. Thompson said she's ready for the cases to go to trial and for her and her fellow defendants to regain "some normalcy" after months of demonstrations, court appearances, and threats.
"It just feels like we're one step closer to being done with this," she said.
In a press conference outside the courthouse, demonstrators continued their calls for all of the charges to be dropped.
"We are on the side of freedom, justice, and liberation. With the coming anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we are asking a simple question to our elected leaders — which side are you on?" said Jessica Jude, one of the people charged.
Echols said the cases were expected to go to trial today, but could not because of a scheduling conflict. His office filed an additional misdemeanor charge against each person for conspiring to damage a public monument.
The arrestees and their supporters, collectively known as Defend Durham, are holding a People's Tribunal this Saturday
in which they will hear testimony "to shed light on crimes against the people" by state and local officials, including what it called obstruction of justice by the General Assembly in passing a 2015 law that protects Confederate monuments; collusion by elected officials to target poor communities and communities of color; and negligent homicide by Sheriff Mike Andrews for multiple deaths in the jail.