Authorities in Durham, North Carolina, may charge protesters who toppled a bronze statue at a Confederate memorial.
Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews said in a statement that he will begin looking into criminal charges for those responsible for toppling a bronze statue in front of a county courthouse Aug. 14, according to the Durham Herald-Sun.
A group of protesters mobilized around the statue of a Confederate soldier outside a county courthouse in Durham, using a ladder and a yellow cargo rope to pull the statue down from its base. Sheriffs from the Durham police department were present but did not intervene.
"County leaders were aware of the risk of damage to the Confederate statute, as well as, the potential risk of injury to the public and officers should deputies attempt to control the crowd. Collectively, we decided that restraint and public safety would be our priority,” Andrews wrote in his statement.
Andrews also made clear that "racism and incivility" had no place in the country, and suggested that safe spaces be created for people to protest their own causes, according to WTVD.
"As the sheriff, I am not blind to the offensive conduct of some demonstrators nor will I ignore their criminal conduct," Andrews continued. "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."
One of the leaders of the protest, which gathered more than 100 people, was 22-year-old Takiyah Thompson, a member of the Workers World Party. She said she was responsible for climbing the ladder and placing the rope around the statue to allow others to pull it down.
"I feel like it's important to tear down these vestiges of white supremacy," Thompson said.
Once the statue had fallen, protesters began kicking it and spitting on it, per WNCT. Afterwards, they began marching, blocking traffic and closing nearby streets.
The monument, which was erected in 1924, carried the inscription "The Confederate States of America" across its front, with a statue of a Confederate soldier above it. The monument was dedicated to "the boys who wore gray," according to WTVD.
North Carolina Gov. Ray Cooper offered his thoughts on the statue via Twitter: "The racism and deadly violence in Charlottesville is unacceptable but there is a better way to remove these monuments."
Durham Mayor Bill Bell said he was "not surprised" at the protesters' actions, based on increased racial tensions in the nation following a white-supremacist rally on Aug. 12 that turned violent and resulted in the death of a counter-protestor. He would not comment on potential charges for the organizers.