Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews said, “Let me be clear, no one is getting away with what happened.”
A downtown protest severed a statue of a Confederate soldier, leaving The Confederate Soldiers Monument, originally dedicated on May 10, 1924, broken Monday night and crumpled, headless on the ground.
The Sheriff’s Office is investigating and pursuing felony charges, Andrews said.
The rally began around 6 p.m. as more than 50 people gathered in front of the now county administration building. They chanted. They shared their experiences in Charlottesville, Virginia and demanded that people fight racism across the South.
Sheriff’s deputies recorded the event but did not intervene as a protester climbed a ladder amid applause and chants and slipped a yellow, bungie-like cord around the soldier’s head and arm.
Protesters chanted “We, we are The Revolution” and cried out, “You can't, stop The Revolution.”
They tugged the yellow cord.
And the statue did a somersault, collapsing against the stone pedestal in front of the old county courthouse on East Main Street.
Riled demonstrators kicked and stomped the solider in front of the cameras.
“As the Sheriff, I am not blind to the offensive conduct of some demonstrators nor will I ignore their criminal conduct,” Andrews wrote in a release. “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.”
It is unclear with what felonies individuals involved in Monday’s protest might be charged.
Under North Carolina state law, any person who willfully and wantonly damages, injures or destroys property – either public or private – will be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Disorderly conduct in, and injuries to, public buildings and facilities can result in Class 2 misdemeanor charges.
A Class 1 misdemeanors are more serious charges than Class 2 misdemeanors.
A person making rude or riotous noises or committing “any nuisance in or near any public building or facility” can result in their being charged with a misdemeanor.
Under state law, it’s unlawful to write, scribble, mark, deface, besmear, or injure the walls of public facilities or “any statue or monument situated in any public place” and such an act may result in a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Additionally under state law, a person may face a Class 2 misdemeanor charge, if they “remove, alter or deface” any landmark.
Durham County Manager Wendell Davis said Tuesday afternoon that Durham County does not condone the “unlawful” desecration of a “public monument.”
Davis said what started as “peaceful event” ended with “unfortunate action.”
Andrews said protest is an American right, but protesters cannot damage property or injure other people.
“We know what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. Three people lost their lives and 19 people were injured,” Andrews said. He does not want that to happen in Durham, he said.
“We can all agree that yesterday went too far,” Andrews said. “This is not the Durham I know.”
No arrests have been made in the incident.