Less than a day after a crowd of protesters toppled a Confederate statue outside a Durham, NC, courthouse, law enforcement officials have announced plans to seek criminal charges against those responsible.
“I am grateful the events that unfolded Monday evening did not result in serious injury or the loss of life, but the planned demonstration should serve as a sobering example of the price we all pay when civil disobedience is no longer civil,” Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews said in a lengthy statement to the local Indy Week newspaper.
Noting that his staff had met with “community partners” before Monday afternoon’s protest, which resulted in the toppling of a monument to Confederate soldiers, Andrews explained that “collectively, we decided that restraint and public safety would be our priority” during the event itself.
But, Andrews continued:
As the Sheriff, I am not blind to the offensive conduct of some demonstrators nor will I ignore their criminal conduct. With the help of video captured at the scene, my investigators are working to identify those responsible for the removal and vandalism of the statue.
Praising his officers for their “great restraint and respect for the constitutional rights of the group expressing their anger and disgust for recent events in our country,” Andrews went on to say that he will begin seeking input from community leaders to develop plans to address future protests.
The threat to prosecute those responsible for tearing down a symbol of hate and bigotry was met with an offer for pro-bono defense from North Carolina attorney T. Gregg Doucette, who described the monument as a “statue to terrorists.”
At one point during Monday afternoon’s protests, local authorities covered the statue with cooking oil to impede activists trying to scale the monument. It is unclear whether or not Sheriff Andrews’ officers were involved in that effort.
In a tweet on Monday night, North Carolina’s Democratic Governor Roy Cooper denounced the weekend’s domestic terror attack in Charlottesville, VA, but also criticized the activists responsible for toppling the statue.
According to WRAL, North Carolina’s General Assembly passed legislation in 2015 to prevent the removal or relocation of any state monuments or statues without legislative approval.
So far, no arrests stemming from Monday’s protest have been made.