On Monday, protesters in Durham, North Carolina, pulled down a Confederate statue — without any official permission. In the following days, police arrested several people for the act on riot and property destruction charges.
But on Thursday, a crowd of residents in Durham showed solidarity with the arrested: Dozens lined up to turn themselves in for the “crime” of tearing down a Confederate statue — in an attempt to get all the charges dropped for those arrested.
Wow! Line of residents in Durham, NC attempting to turn themselves in for 'crime' of removing Confederate Monuments— Auburn (@AuburnSeminary) August 17, 2017
(photo Katina Parker) pic.twitter.com/DjdNS8S6rc
According to the Herald Sun, three activists actually turned themselves in, while about 100 others went to the jail to show support. More of these activists planned to turn themselves in as a symbolic gesture, but they were stopped from entering the building.
“It was a community all together who did that, who was responsible for that toppling of racism,” activist Lamont Lilly said in a speech to the crowd. “Very often, it does take one person to be the spark — to be the initiator like sister Bree Newsome. But it takes a movement, it takes a mass of people to support that — and keep those movements sustainable.”
This is just the latest phase in America’s ongoing battle over Confederate symbols and monuments.
The current debate goes back to a mass shooting in 2015, when self-described white supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people in a predominantly black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof drew a lot of attention for posing with the Confederate flag in images that came out after the shooting — and that helped spur a fight within South Carolina about whether it should take down a Confederate flag that had flown at the state capitol for years. The state eventually agreed to officially take down the flag (after it was unofficially taken down by activist Bree Newsome).
Since then, many cities and states, particularly in the South, have been questioning their own Confederate symbols. The argument is simple: The Confederacy fought to maintain slavery and white supremacy in the United States, and that isn’t something that the country should honor or commemorate in any way.
But as cities resist or move slowly on this issue, some activists are taking matters into their own hands. That’s what we’re seeing in Durham this week.
For more on the battle over Confederate statues, read Vox’s explainer.