Since protesters toppled a Confederate monument Monday in Durham, N.C., local police have arrested eight people on charges of rioting and defacing public property. Three of those protesters appeared in court Thursday — but they were far from the only people packing the Durham County Courthouse.
Upward of 100 people showed up to support the suspects, filling the building to such an extent the fire marshal "determined the crowd posed a security risk," the Durham County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. Law enforcement added that the rally unfolded without incident.
But the demonstrators did not settle simply at the courthouse. Dozens of them marched on the Durham County Detention Facility, hoping to turn themselves in for the very same crimes in solidarity with those arrested — and before long, video of the incident hit social media.
The group of sign-toting demonstrators lined up outside the front door, chanting, "Thank you! We love you!"
They remained outside, however, as police turned away everyone who did not have an outstanding arrest warrant under their name. "Deputies did not arrest rally participants who approached them claiming responsibility for the destruction of a historical statute," the sheriff's office said.
"Dozens of people are here to take responsibility for the removal of that statue, which should make it clear that there are so many of us that support what happened," Serena Sebring, a demonstrator Thursday who says she played no part in the statue's destruction, told Durham's Herald-Sun newspaper.
"All of us are willing to share the cost of our freedom," she added. "All of us are here, and we are willing to take whatever responsibility, whatever consequences come along with the removal of that statue."
Still, law enforcement did arrest four people who surrendered Thursday under arrest warrants "in connection with the destruction of government property," bringing the total number of people charged to eight: Aaron Alexander Caldwell, 24; Raul Mauro Arce Jimenez, 26; Elena Everett, 37; Taylor Alexander Jun Cook, 24; Peter Gull Gilbert, 39; Dante Emmanuel Strobino, 35; Ngoc Loan Tran, 24; Takiyah Fatima Thompson, 22.
The eight suspects allegedly played key roles in the gathering that dragged down the city's statue of a Confederate soldier, just days after the deadly violence surrounding white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va. Since that violence unfolded, activists and politicians in cities across the country have sought the removal of Confederate monuments like the one that white supremacists in Charlottesville said they wished to save.
Durham City Councilman Charlie Reece says he asked Sheriff Mike Andrews not to press felony charges, as Andrews has vowed to do. But the Sons of Confederate Veterans has stated a vow of its own, according to the local News & Observer: The group "says it will offer rewards in future instances when monuments are torn down and 'our government fails to act,' " the paper reported.
The monument that fell Monday in downtown Durham was not the only Confederate statue in the city to be damaged this week, however. A marble likeness of Gen. Robert E. Lee that stands outside the Duke Chapel was also vandalized, school officials learned early Thursday.
"Each of us deserves a voice in determining how to address the questions raised by the statues of Robert E. Lee and others, and confront the darker moments in our nation's history," Duke President Vincent E. Price said in a statement.
But, he added, "for an individual or group of individuals to take matters into their own hands and vandalize a house of worship undermines the right ... of every Duke student and employee to participate fully in university life."