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Protesters Charged For Toppling Confederate Statue (Photos)

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Eight protesters accused of toppling a Confederate statue in Durham, North Carolina, will no longer face felony charges when they appear in court in February. 

After the statue of a Confederate soldier came down in August 2017, the protesters were charged with felony rioting and misdemeanor property damage.

"I only plan to try them on the misdemeanors," said Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols, reports The Associated Press. The trial is set to begin on Feb. 19. 

The statue that was toppled had stood in front of a local government building, which was formerly a courthouse, since 1924, according to The Atlantic. It was installed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and bore an inscription commemorating "The Boys Who Wore The Gray." 

Following violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, protesters across the country began eyeing Confederate statues in their own cities, vandalizing them and demanding their removal. Durham was different because the protesters managed to tear the statue down on their own. 

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Police watched while protesters climbed a ladder and placed a rope around the statue. Then, protesters gave a sharp pull and yanked the statue off its pedestal. Arrests only came later, once the crowd had dispersed and everyone gone home. 

Even if Durham County commissioners wanted to remove the statue, they could do nothing without permission from the state, according to The Atlantic. After the statue was toppled, the county commission issued a statement that made no mention of local protests or the statue, a move that some interpreted as the commission secretly admitting it sided with protesters. 

Many residents of Durham were dumbstruck but also elated the statue had been torn down. 

"They took old faithful down," said Jackie Wagstaff, a local activist, according to The Atlantic. "I just can't believe it." 

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"I love it," she continued. "It should have been done a long time ago. I don't even know why these five so-called progressive county commissioners -- they should have had this taken down a long time ago."

Two of the protesters charged say taking down the statue was the right thing to do and they shouldn't be prosecuted. 

"We want the courts to recognize what the people have been saying: that challenging and defeating white supremacy is not a crime," said defendant Jess Jude, according to AP. 

Another defendant, Qasima Wideman, told AP that if the remaining charges aren't dropped, she and the other protesters will see their trial through to the end. 

"Our hope is also that the trial and keeping this issue in the public view will help to ignite more people to feel empowered to fight racism and white supremacy in all its forms," she said.

Sources: AP via Citizen Times, The Atlantic / Featured Image: Hanneorla Hanneorla/Flickr / Embedded Images: David A. Graham/The Atlantic

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