Four people charged in connection with the August 14 dismantling of a Confederate statue in Durham and a spontaneous August 18 anti-Klan rally downtown have had their cases continued to December 5.
Jessica Jude, Qasima Wideman, Dwayne Dixon, and Gregory Williams appeared in Durham County court this morning. They are among fourteen people facing charges related to the two demonstrations. The arrestees and their supporters have coalesced into an antiracist movement known as Defend Durham.
Jude and Wideman are charged with inciting a riot, injury to personal property, and injury to real property in connection with the toppling of the Confederate monument in the wake of a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville the weekend before. Dixon, who brought a rifle downtown on August 18 as hundreds of people gathered amid reports of a possible Ku Klux Klan rally, is charged with openly carrying a weapon at a public assembly and going armed to the terror of the public. Williams is charged with wearing a mask at the same event.
Nine other demonstrators have already had their cases continued to November 14, but it’s possible those cases could also be continued to December 5. Christopher Brazil, who is facing the same charges as Dixon, is scheduled to appear in court November 16.
After a brief appearance in court, the four joined about a dozen supporters to call for the charges against them to be dropped and, on the occasion of National Coming Out Day, to call for “all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, to take leadership from LGBTQ people of color and come out into the streets to defend your communities.”
“We come out in celebration of the LGBTQ community’s sometimes ‘criminal’ commitment to self-defense—it took angry trans women, drag queens and kinds, butch lesbians and femme gay men taking the streets armed with bricks and broken beer bottles to fight for their lives against the police to pave the way for our survival and resistance today,” said Wideman, reading a statement from the group. “We are coming out as the angry children of those pissed off queers, and we call on Sheriff [Mike] Andrews to come out as well as an enabler of white supremacy, a cruel jailer, a protector of property over people, and an advocate for murderous policing.”
The day after the August 14 toppling of the Confederate monument, Sheriff Andrews announced that his agency would be pursuing felony charges against demonstrators. Later that day, Takiyah Thompson, who scaled the monument, was taken into custody leaving a press conference. Other demonstrators were arrested at each other’s court dates or turned themselves in as a show of solidarity.
Asked if it seems likely Andrews would drop charges against the group, Wideman said, “Whatever he does choose to do will be in the interest of white supremacy.”
Durham District Attorney Roger Echols has said he would only prosecute those directly involved with toppling the monument and that he would seek “a just resolution,” taking into account the political and social context of the action.
Since being charged on August 27, Dixon has maintained that he acted within the law when he came downtown with a semiautomatic rifle after hearing from friends that the KKK may be coming to town. When he arrived, the crowd was still unsure what was going to transpire, as the Sheriff’s Office worked to combat “rumors” of a possible Klan appearance. (Turns out the Sheriff’s Office was the source of those rumors.)
Dixon says he is aware of the law against openly carrying a weapon at a public assembly and left once the crowd began to march through the streets. He added that although the gun is a “dangerous object,” he never raised it and was not approached by law enforcement at the time. He was arrested later in a peculiar encounter with deputies on a friend’s undeveloped land outside of city limits.
“The day I came down there, I was certain I was within the law,” he said this morning. “My opinion hasn’t changed; in fact, it’s gotten more solid.”
As the cases make their way through the court, Durham County officials, at Echols’s request, have turned over an assessment of the property damage done on August 14. Last week, Durham County commissioners quietly sent Echols a letter offering two monetary estimates of the statue’s worth and adding that it has “no moral value” in Durham.