A protester who helped bring down a Confederate soldier statue in Durham this August accepted deferred prosecution Tuesday morning at the Durham County Courthouse, while the remaining eight protesters saw their cases continued into the new year.
A judge previously dropped charges against three other protesters last month.
Only Ngoc Loan Tran agreed to deferred prosecution for three outstanding charges: injury to real property, damage to personal property and defacing a public monument. After paying restitution and completing 25 hours of community service, Tran’s name will be cleared.
The other eight protesters, including Takiyah Thompson, a student at N.C. Central University, who wrapped a yellow cord around the statue before it came down Aug. 14, will continue their trials Jan. 11, 2018.
Following the hearing, Thompson promised to take her charges to trial and prove her innocence in 2018.
She offered advice to other people facing similar challenges.
“I would say to people to be their own masters and to decide their own fate and not leave it to officials who sit in air-conditioned rooms and never have to deal with the consequences of white supremacy,” Thompson said.
Four days after the initial incident, on Aug. 18, counterprotesters gathered in downtown Durham upon hearing of a potential white supremacist march.
Several Ku Klux Klan members arrived and counterprotesters, fearing for their lives, called on UNC Asian studies teaching assistant professor Dwayne Dixon and Christopher Brazil for protection.
Dixon and Brazil were both charged with bringing a firearm to the protest. They had their cases delayed until Feb. 8. Gregory Williams, who was charged for wearing a mask at the protest, was also delayed to the same day.
Dixon, 45, was greeted upon leaving the courthouse by a rousing wave of "White supremacy has got to go" chants from members of Defend Durham, a local activism organization that set up a demonstration outside.
He picked up his daughter and raised his right fist to the sky.
Dixon said the court’s past two decisions — downgrading the charges from felonies to misdemeanors and then postponing cases today — are significant victories for protesters.
“It’s quite clear that we are actually shifting even the courtroom proceedings in our favor,” Dixon said. “This is a really significant moment to demonstrate the power of people to reshape seemingly intractable institutions like the judicial system.”
Raul Jimenez, 26, is among the protesters who saw their cases postponed.
Jimenez said he is confident the city of Durham has his and his fellow protesters’ backs.
“What happened was what the community wanted,” Jimenez said. “What happened was what needed to happen because the communities of people of color in North Carolina (have) been oppressed for long enough, and these symbols of oppression are part of that oppression.”
T. Greg Doucette, a Durham-based criminal defense attorney who was present at the trial, said cases like Tran’s can be considered victories for the protesters.
“A lot of times with civil disobedience, your role is forcing the government to follow through on what it’s actually obligated to do,” Doucette said. “When Tran’s case is going to get dismissed once (they pay) restitution — that’s a win, because the government has charged these people with felonies, which is an overcharge in my opinion.”
He said that would be agreeing to an outright dismissal with the addition of 25 hours of community service.
“(That's) something that you’d have to do on a misdemeanor possession of marijuana charge," he said. "That’s a pretty big win in my book because, why did you charge them with felonies in the first place?”
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