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Rioters in Durham North Carolina destroy a memorial to southern soldiers on Monday August 14, 2017
Sheriff told officers to exercise ‘restraint’ while rioters destroyed monument
On Monday, vandals destroyed a nearly 100-year old monument in North Carolina dedicated to the memory of Confederate soldiers.
North Carolina law prohibits destroying public property without first obtaining permission from the city or state in which the property resides. Officers from the Durham County Sheriff’s office, however, had been given explicit instructions from their Sheriff’s Office to exercise ‘restraint’ and not interfere with the criminal destruction. Accordingly, officers stood by and watched the destruction.
In a statement published on the Durham County Sheriff’s webpage, Sheriff Mike Andrews explained his questionable actions, “We decided that restraint and public safety would be our priority.” Curiously, in the same statement, Andrews also promised not to ignore criminal conduct, despite instructing his officers to do precisely that, “As the Sheriff, I am not blind to the offensive conduct of some demonstrators nor will I ignore their criminal conduct.”
Today, Sheriff Andrews announced that his officers were now working with state investigators to identify those involved in the destruction in order to bring criminal charges against them.
Sheriff’s actions suggest a lack of commitment to the rule of law
The Sheriff’s decision to exercise ‘restraint’ when confronted with a crime one day, and yet support the prosecution of that same crime the following day, suggests a troubling lack of commitment to the rule of law. At a minimum, it raises reasonable questions about the Sheriff’s understanding of his duties. Such behavior is reminiscent of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s infamous 2015 decision to give rioters “space” to destroy; a decision that Maryland’s Governor later bemoaned cost that city, “Hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Sheriff statement confuses criminal destruction of public property with “constitutional right” to protest
Sheriff Andrews’ webpage statement also suggests the Sheriff is confusing the rioter’s criminal destruction of public property with their constitutionally-protected rights to peacefully assemble and protest. “My deputies showed great restraint,” the Sheriff says, “and respect for the constitutional rights of the group expressing their anger and disgust for recent events in our country.”
While the U.S. constitution does give citizens the right to assemble and protest, it does NOT give them the right to riot and destroy public property. Once the ladders and ropes went up to pull down the statue, the protest became a criminal riot.
The laws of North Carolina provide the means for the removal of any monument or memorial that its citizens wish to see removed. Citizens may petition their city or state government and, upon either a council vote or public referendum, the monument may then be removed or relocated.
That’s called the “rule of law” and that is what the U.S. constitution provides for its citizens.
What happened on Monday is nothing more than “rioting” and “criminal vandalism”, and that is NOT a constitutional right.
On Tuesday afternoon, a 22-year old college student at North Carolina Central University, Takiya Thompson, was arrested for her role in toppling the statue.
Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrew also has responded to concerns about his decision to exercise restraint, calling the protester’s actions “a blatant violation of the law,” and clarifying that no one was arrested during the demonstration over fears about possible injuries. “Don’t mistake restraint for inaction,” the Sheriff reportedly said, “Had I ordered my deputies to engage a hostile crowd, there would have been serious injuries. Statues can be replaced; lives cannot.”
Three more protesters were arrested Wednesday. Dante Strobino, 35, and Ngoc Loan Tran, 24, were arrested when they attended a court hearing for another woman who was charged Tuesday. Peter Gilbert, 39, was arrested later Wednesday afternoon.
Protest was organized by Workers World Party, a communist organization
The four individuals arrested for the destruction are affiliated with the Workers World Party, which helped organize the Durham protest. The Workers World Party (WWP) is a communist party in the United States, founded in 1959 by a group led by Sam Marcy of the Socialist Workers Party.
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Keywords: constitutional rights, criminal conduct, destruction of property, Durham County Sheriff, Mike Andrews, rioters.