“As a country that values progress, this symbol has been a stumbling block,” he said.
After Joustra’s comments were met with applause, Aucoin spoke, using her time to criticize the rhetorical use of the term ‘violence’ by the University. She said that a false comparison has been made between violence and vandalism.
“You can’t be violent against an inanimate object; that’s fundamentally true,” she said.
Aucoin argued that her and her fellow protestors were victims of violence, rather than harbingers of it, and have been mischaracterized. She also told the crowd she believed the legal system was conspiring against those charged to keep the defendants separated.
“I believe a strategy that the courts are using is dividing up all of our court dates so we will lack court support,” she said.
After Aucoin finished speaking, Maya Little, who was in the crowd, started a chant that soon was picked up by the entire group.
“Nat Turner, John Brown, anti-racists run this town!” they chanted, referencing leaders of abolitionist rebellions before the Civil War.
Little, a UNC graduate student activist who threw blood and red ink on the statue in April, was there to show her support to the defendants, remarked on the University’s recent behavior. She said she thought the response from the police during this month’s protests didn't favor her side. Little's trial is scheduled for Oct. 15.
“What you saw on Thursday with them pepper spraying students and press, was to protect Neo-Confederates,” Little said.
She said that while the police made “every effort” to destroy their protest materials, the “Neo-Confederates” were allowed flowers within their barricades. Little said she thinks those small gestures are part of a larger complex of bias the University and police have against her group.
“The only way to make it fair would be to drop those charges,” she said.
Before the group dispersed — and after everyone was invited to the upcoming Nazis Suck Potluck in McCorkle Place next Saturday — Raul Jimenez, who's charged with crimes related to Silent Sam and was recently acquitted for his involvement in the toppling of a Confederate statue in Durham, spoke about the importance of a unified front during the next few weeks.
Over the course of the next month, the oak tree across the street from the Orange County courthouse will see plenty more of the same scene — cases related to the statue are regularly on the docket. But throughout the chaos of the trials, speakers said the support coming from students, concerned citizens, fellow defendants and many others will help guide them through the process.
Aucoin said when she returns to court, she hopes she won't be left alone.
“My court date and Alex’s next court date is Oct. 9. Y’all should show up for that,” she said. “I’ll bring my party hats then, and maybe more cake, unless people democratically decide on something better than cake.”