25 August 2017

Durham, North Carolina

Leftists Tear Down Confederate Statue

Drop All Charges!

Eight leftists, many of them members of Workers World Party (WWP), were arrested in Durham, North Carolina, last week and slapped with outrageous felony charges—including incitement to riot—for pulling down a statue of a Confederate soldier. Erected at the instigation of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1924 and paid for with public funds, the statue was a vile celebration of the Jim Crow segregation enforced by the Democrats and the lynch-rope terror of a resurgent Ku Klux Klan. Until it was brought down, it stood for nearly a century in front of the old Durham County Courthouse. North Carolina’s liberal Research Triangle, which includes Durham, and its many universities are littered with monuments to the slavocracy. Those arrested for ridding this majority-black city of the statue have done black people, immigrants and the working class a real service. We demand: Drop all the charges now!

The Confederate Soldiers Monument was toppled during a protest rally called by WWP on August 14. Outraged by the deadly fascist rampage in Charlottesville two days earlier, which ended in the murder of Heather Heyer, more than 100 people turned out in solidarity with the anti-fascists who confronted the stormtroopers in Virginia. Urged on by the crowd’s chants of “No Trump, No KKK, no fascist USA,” Takiyah Thompson, a 22-year-old black student at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) and WWP member, climbed a ladder and slipped a long strap around the statue, while other protesters pulled it off its pedestal. Video of the protest went viral, as Democratic governor Roy Cooper chastised the activists, tweeting, “The racism and deadly violence in Charlottesville is unacceptable but there is a better way to remove these monuments.”

Sheriff Mike Andrews, also a Democrat, swore a vendetta against the protesters, telling the press, “No one is getting away with what happened.” Deputies quickly made good on the threat, arresting Thompson after a press conference at NCCU on August 15. Two other WWP members, Dante Strobino and Ngoc Loan Tran, were pulled out of a courtroom hearing for Thompson the next morning and arrested. A fourth protester, Peter Gilbert, was arrested that afternoon after deputies searched his address. The homes of several other WWP members were also raided. On August 17, up to 300 supporters lined up in front of the sheriff’s office to “confess” to having pulled down the statue. They were refused entry, but deputies executed warrants against Aaron Caldwell, Raul Jimenez and Elena Everett, arresting them on the spot. An eighth activist with an open warrant, Taylor Jun Cook, turned himself in later that day. Meanwhile, the fascist scum, taking their cue from the state’s persecution, have ominously been targeting WWP on social media.

In an interview with Democracy Now! (16 August), Thompson explained she helped take down the statue because it is a symbol of “white nationalism” and noted that she has received death threats on Facebook from fascists. She went on to say, “Anything that emboldens those people and anything that gives those people pride needs to be crushed in the same way that they want to crush black people and the other groups that they target.” Four days after the statue was toppled, rumors circulated of a KKK march in downtown Durham. In response, hundreds came out to counter them, and the Klan didn’t show.

As we wrote in “Confederate Monuments: Tear ’Em All Down!” (WV No. 1113, 2 June), monuments to the Confederate slaveowners who were defeated in the Civil War “represent a racist affront to black people and serve as rallying points for resurgent racist terror.” We have many programmatic differences with the reformist, pro-Democratic Party politics of Workers World Party, which earlier this year pointed to Cooper’s gubernatorial victory as an example of “the power” of the oppressed “to influence the political landscape” (workers.org, 28 March). But we vigorously defend WWP and all those who participated in this act of basic public sanitation in Durham.

Black oppression is the bedrock of American capitalism. It took a bloody Civil War, the Second American Revolution, to destroy black chattel slavery. It will take a third, workers, revolution to put an end to wage slavery and achieve the promise of black equality. The Spartacist League is committed to building the revolutionary workers party—one that is 70 percent black and minority—necessary to sweep away the racist capitalist order. Finish the Civil War! For black liberation through socialist revolution!

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1116, 25 August 2017)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.