Protesters hang Confederate statue from lightpost in NC capital

Tribune Content Agency

RALEIGH, N.C. — Protesters pulled down the bronze soldiers attached to the base of the 75-foot Confederate monument at the state Capitol Friday night, then hung one by its neck from a streetlight pole and drug the other to the Wake County courthouse.

Earlier, about 7:45 p.m, they had wrapped yellow rope around the necks of the figures, but didn’t tear them down before police intervened. Officers cleared the area after about a half hour, letting the protesters mount the base of the monument.

As a protester in a red shirt climbed the monument to where the statues stood, another group approached the scene and tried to convince people not to take the statues down, saying they wanted to protect the protesters from arrest. The conflict led to physical skirmishes.

On top of the monument, the man rocking one statue then the other statue back and forth as hundreds of protesters shouted encouragement from the ground.

Minutes later, the demonstrators looped a red strap around the statues and pulled.

This time they fell to the ground.

In the afternoon, other groups convened in Raleigh and Durham to celebrate Juneteenth, the commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States, and to remind politicians that demands for true equality for African Americans remain unmet.

“It’s very significant that we tie together Juneteenth and the current climate of what’s going on right now,” Kerwin Pittman, an organizer with Raleigh Demands Justice, said, referencing the protests that have rocked cities across the country since George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis on May 25.

“We really must tie those things together because it’s the same thing yesterday as it is today. We’re still fighting for liberation. We’re still fighting for emancipation from a racist, biased criminal justice system.”

The police presence was minimal as crowds gathered for marches around downtown and a party in South Raleigh in the afternoon and early evening. But around 7:30 p.m., protesters faced off with officers surrounding the 75-foot monument to Confederate soldiers and sailors at the state Capitol.

Two ropes hung off of bronze figures attached to the monuments base, as though someone intended to pull them down.

Events in Raleigh started around noon outside Duke Energy Center. People played music and read poetry before Taari Coleman, an organizer with NC BORN, a group that describes its aim as dismantling all oppression, took the mic to address what was on many people’s minds: her arrest the night before.

Coleman and a minor were taken into police custody during a march in downtown Raleigh along McDowell Street. Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown said in a news conference Friday that she decided to drop charges against the two after reviewing video posted to social media and body-camera footage. The incident was initially reported as an assault on an officer, Deck-Brown said.

Coleman didn’t provide her account before the crowd Friday, but she said it was good that no one was in jail and no one had been hurt.

“There’s a really weird, somber mood out,” she said, and the crowd reflected that. People passed around Sharpie pens to write the number of the North Carolina National Lawyers Guild on their arms in case of arrest, and a guild attorney gave the group a short “Know Your Rights” talk.

Once the 75 or so people who had gathered began marching to the Executive Mansion, the mood began to lift.

Protesters danced to a revamped version of the now-familiar “No justice! No peace!” chant. They have made near-nightly appearances in Raleigh’s streets since May 30, calling for drastic changes to policing and an end to white supremacy.

In front of the mansion, Lauren Howell, an organizer with NC BORN, spoke about the obstacles facing North Carolina voters.

“Republicans right now are trying to cut the number of early voting days,” Howell said, “trying to cut the number of polling locations.”

An older woman in the crowd called out several times that “no vote is a vote for Trump.”

The crowd swelled as marchers kept moving, reaching about 150 people by the time they arrived in front of the Wake County courthouse, where Howell spoke to the crowd about cultural appropriation.

“When you think about freedom and when you think about blackness, I want you to think about the fact that Black people contribute and create American culture,” she said.

Howell said that words like “ratchet” and “ghetto” were used against her in a derogatory way, but they have been co-opted and made into trends without people understanding what they mean.

In front of the courthouse, Raleigh-Apex NAACP president Gerald D. Givens Jr. described being racially profiled by a group of law enforcement officers while shopping at an Old Navy.

“To our law enforcement agents, no matter what agency that you work in, we know that you a human being too,” Givens said. “But when you see us, recognize that we’re human too.”

Rain caused a temporary lull in the action, but by around 6:30 p.m., roughly 200 people were gathered near the intersection of Bragg and Bloodworth for an event that felt more like a party.

In Durham, about 500 protesters met in front of the police headquarters, where some people had been camping out to protest increased spending on law enforcement. They painted the word “defund” on the asphalt in giant yellow letters.

The word is a reference to a growing movement across the country to shift resources from police departments into social programs such as education and mental health services.

Organizers from BYP100 called on the City Council to “invest in community and divest in the police.”

Near a series of tents, protesters set up a handwashing stations. The smell of hamburgers wafted from the grill. Children swung at a piñata.

“This is a day of mourning and-or celebration,” Marcella Camara, a member of Spirithouse, a black organizing group that has developed an alternative to policing called “harm-free zones,” said while taking a break from painting the “defund” mural.

“It’s a reminder for black people that we are beautiful were we have all we need to get free. We have all we need to take care of our communities.”

Organizers led the crowd in call and response chants.

“I love being Black,” the crowd called back. “I love the color of my skin. It is the skin that I’m in. I love the texture of my hair. I rock it everywhere.”

In front of the jail, protesters a message to the people held inside. “We see you, we love you,” they chanted.


(Visual journalist Robert Willett contributed to this report.)


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