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August 15

Durham Tears Down Confederate Statue in Solidarity with Cville

UPDATE: One person has been arrested and is need of support. Please donate to the Durham Solidarity Center Bond Fund, and call the DA to demand they drop the charges at 919 808 3010.

On Sunday and Monday, Durham held two solidarity events in response to the courageous defense of Charlottesville by antifascists against a massive crowd of Nazis and neo-Confederates, and the spineless murder of antifascist protester Heather Heyer by neo-Nazi James Alex Fields, Jr.

The first event was organized for Sunday, and was exclusively put together by “Indivisible Durham” and other liberal and Democratic Party-aligned organizations, none of which were in Charlottesville. When a member of the IWW who had been there asked to be allowed to speak, the organizers forbid it because the wobbly was “too radical.” During the event itself, two queer people of color stole the mic to call out the racist apathy of the overwhelmingly white and liberal crowd, and were threatened with arrest by one of the organizers. A small group of people—a mix of communists, anarchists, and others—then promptly led a roughly 75-person march to a nearby Confederate monument and held their own rally instead.

A second, more radical event was called for the following day. Suffice to say, after the betrayal and bullshit of the day before, the collective mood of the roughly 150 folks who showed up was pretty spicy. There were numerous anarchist affinity groups, anarchist medic teams, and leftist cadre groups that had been on the frontlines in Charlottesville, had fought hard and given and taken blows, and witnessed Heather’s death firsthand. Self-righteous, sidewalk navel-gazing, and increasingly irrelevant liberals had treated people like they were errant children. People were angry, and I wasn’t the only one.

People assembled at the old Courthouse on E. Main St., and after a range of speakers, the crowd shuffled in slight confusion towards the Confederate monument at the left side of the lawn. People weren’t quite sure what was gonna happen, and seemed skeptical. The base of that monument was huge! It had been attacked before—a nighttime vandal spray-painted it in 2015—but it felt like any monument was supposed to feel: immobile, timeless, overwhelming.

In the midst of chanting, 2 people rushed a tall grey ladder through the crowd and leaned it up against the back of the monument. A woman quickly looped a yellow nylon rope around the head of the bronze Confederate soldier at the top, and in a matter of seconds a large portion of the crowd started tugging backward on the rope.

Nobody was masking up, and in any case there was no time to, a fact that people may pay for later. Individuals hurriedly squeezed in on the rope between two people, most who were a little bemused and still skeptical, but wanting to give it a shot.

Within a second, the head of the bronze soldier started to teeter—holy shit, it’s working! A second later the soldier somersaulted downwards, still attached to the concrete base, and landed head down, crumpling like tin foil under its own weight. There was no way the city could just put the statue back up the next day, I thought to myself—that shit is fucking done. In the face of bureaucratic apathy and a 2015 NC law that prohibits local city councils from removing historical monuments, we had taken down the statue our-fucking-selves. NC Governor Roy Cooper soon tweeted that there “is a better way to remove these monuments.” Fuck that, this is the way to take down these monuments.

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Immediately people started kicking it and spitting on it, and seizing upon perhaps the most delicious selfie moment of 2017. Soon enough though, word came in on comms that riot cops were amassing behind the building, and folks chose to march two blocks to the new DPD HQ under construction. Several of us dipped out to change clothes and get off camera, but I heard later that Black youth in particular led the way there and back, screaming “Fuck 12!” and taking the street. Though the Sherriff department has vowed to review footage, as of last night, there were zero arrests.

You can do this too. The age-old, seemingly immortal statues that you stare up at in disgust in your own town might also be made of this thin, hollow bronze, just waiting to crunch upon the good earth. It didn’t even take that many of us pulling on the rope. If nothing else, pre-loosening that shit with an acetylene torch wouldn’t be that hard to do in the middle of the night. Faced with the pandering liberalism of local mayors who only will allow change on the State and rich people’s terms, this is an alternative. We got this shit.

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While walking back to my car on a back road, I thought about this most beautiful of moments, and wondered: When was the last time a southern anti-racist crowd tore down a Confederate monument? Has this ever happened? And I thought about the last 72 hours, of the blows on our shields and constant burning of pepper spray and the cracking of Nazi skulls, of the sounds of bodies being hit by that car, and the screaming, so much screaming, trying to find out if it was our friends under those tires…And now the crumpling of this hollow racist statue. First my hands and then the rest of me started shaking to those beautiful and awful sounds, the soundtrack to this crazy time we’re living in.

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