Protesters in North Carolina toppled a nearly century-old statue of a Confederate soldier on Monday at a rally against racism.
Activists in Durham brought a ladder to the statue and used a rope to pull down the Confederate soldiers monument. A diverse crowd of dozens cheered as the bronze statue fell and others began to kick it.
Isaiah Wallace said he watched as the statue fell and said he hoped other Confederate symbols elsewhere would follow. “I was a little bit shocked people could come here and come together like that,” said Wallace, who is black. “I feel like this is going to send shockwaves through the country and hopefully they can bring down other racist symbols.”
The Durham protest was in response to a white nationalist rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend. One woman was killed on Saturdayafter a car was driven into a group of peaceful counter-protesters.
Although the violence in Virginia has prompted fresh discussion among government officials about bringing down symbols of the Confederacy around the south, North Carolina has a law protecting them. The 2015 law prevents the removal of such monuments on public property without permission from state officials.
In response to the events in Durham, Democratic governor Roy Cooper tweeted: “The racism and deadly violence in Charlottesville is unacceptable but there is a better way to remove these monuments.”
After the statue fell, several dozen protesters congregated on the street in front of the old courthouse that now houses local government offices. Some took pictures standing or sitting on the toppled soldier, in front of a pedestal inscribed with the words “In memory of the boys who wore the gray.” Police vehicles blocked off the street, and officers looked on – some filming. The protesters dispersed peacefully as darkness fell.
Robin Williamson, who works nearby, arrived in the area about an hour after the statue came down. Williamson, who is black, said he could sympathize with people upset by the state of racial discourse in the country. “People feel that with Donald Trump as leader, racists can be vocal,” he said.
He said that while Confederate monuments have been defaced in other cities, it was surprising to see an entire statue brought down by protesters. “This is a little bit more intense,” he said.