Queer Activists are Taking Down Racist Symbols in the South

After the most recent showcase of violent white supremacy in Charlottesville last weekend, activists have been demanding the removal of confederate statues all across America. In Durham, North Carolina, a group of activists demonstrated their distaste for these racist symbols by taking down the Confederate Soldiers Monument that used to be in front of the old Durham County Courthouse after a rally.

While there have been no arrests yet of the white supremacists who mercilessly beat a counter-protester in Charlottesville, there have already been at least three arrests for the removal of the Confederate monument in Durham, and two of them are queer activists of color.

The first to be arrested was 22-year-old Takiyah Thompson, a student at North Carolina Central University. Takiyah is a black queer woman who was filmed tying a rope around the statue and helping to pull it down. Because her courageous acts were recorded, she was identified and charged with two felonies and two misdemeanors.

In an interview with Democracy Now!, Thompson spoke about what she did and why she did it.

“The sentiment that was expressed in Charlottesville is part and parcel of what built this country. And I know that Charlottesville can erupt anywhere…We’re seeing the rise of white nationalism, and we’re seeing the rise of actual resistance. And I’m not talking about writing your senator. I’m not talking about casting a ballot in a voting booth. I’m talking about voting with your actions. And people are doing that right now.”

In solidarity, two other queer activists turned themselves into the police earlier this week. Other activists have followed their lead, after their court date this morning, there was a line of activists waiting to turn themselves in as participants in the toppling of the Confederate monument. These accomplices believe that if Thompson has been arrested for trying to dismantle white supremacy, they should all be charged. Only nine people have active arrest warrants however, and the police have refused to arrest anyone without an active warrant against them. According to an update on the protests from Facebook, while many people are staying to make their voices heard, many people have also left because Nazis with guns are standing watch, and the fear of being shot is high.

While Thompson was released on bail, she is still facing an upcoming court date, although activists worldwide have been calling for the the courts to drop all charges. The fight will be long and hard, as Thompson and the other two activists who have already been charged have refused public legal counsel and are being represented by NCCU Law professor Scott Holmes and his legal team. They’re relying on their communities to support them, and we must.

You can donate to support Takiyah Thompson on Venmo. She originally had a GoFundMe set up, but because of the backlash of racists who believed she didn’t deserve the money, it was taken down. There is also a more general fund, the Durham Solidarity Center’s Freedom Fighter Bond Fund that you can donate to in order to provide help to all other North Carolina activists who have been arrested fighting against injustice. You can also call the Durham County Sheriff’s office where can ask for all charges against all people to be dropped: 919-808-3010.

After the deadly violence that happened in Charlottesville, it’s time for us to do more than denounce racism and bigotry with our words, we’ve got to make sure those who are putting their lives on the line — and who are usually queer people of color — are supported with as much of our time and our money that we can give them.


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Alaina is a 20-something working on a PhD in Performance as Public Practice. They are a mom to three cats, they listen to a lot of NPR and musicals, and they spend a lot of time on Pinterest lusting over studio apartments. They are actively trying to build A Brand on twitter @alainamonts. One day, they will be First Lady of the United States.

Alaina has written 120 articles for us.

13 Comments

  1. One of the reasons,other than racism of course,I think Thompson has been arrested already and not those cretins is because it was easier to track her down and I think the establishment mistakenly believed she’d be easy to make an example of.
    That she’d crumple under the felony weight of those charges without a fight or get any support from the public.

    But I think they’re finding unlike that hollow statute, she’s solid brass with living base.

  2. These activists are heroes, but I’m sorry, why are they refusing legal counsel?! Where is the ACLU on this? They can step up to defend Nazis’ rights to protest, but they can’t come to the defence of queer women of colour charged with dismantling white supremacy!? When you say they’re counting on their communities to support them, I sincerely hope that means lawyers in their communities as well. I understand the reluctance to accept help from a state that commits violence against you regularly, but seriously, this shit can get super complicated. Alaina, do you have any links that might clarify this? Thanks!

    • i don’t have links, but i know quite a few of the folks arrested, and while i’m not speaking for them, my understanding is that a) they’re calling on their communities to make sure these charges get dropped so that there isn’t a trial at all and b) there is no way to participate in the legal system and have justice be served as a queer person of color because the system wasn’t made for us. i think refusing to participate by not hiring lawyers (which is costly and time consuming for folks who are already spending their time working with their communities and/or working minimum wage jobs) they’re highlighting those facts. it doesn’t feel good to see something like that, but as folks committed to dismantling a system, getting a lawyer would be the opposite of that project. the goal is non-participation and breaking the system down, not trying to get it to work for them. just my thoughts again, since i’m not on the ground and not in their minds. if i find some speeches/words written as to why, i’ll post them here.

    • From what I’ve read, they are refusing the public defenders that would be assigned to them, not legal council in general — they likely need specialists for it work out in their favor, and they’ll have that in Scott Holmes.

      Also, public defenders are paid by the state, not the person charged with crimes, so that legal assistance would have been free of charge to them. However, public defenders are often young attorneys with an astronomically high caseload, so having Scott Holmes and his team step in was absolutely the right move here.

  3. Last I heard, all those who have been arrested are being represented by Scott Holmes, an NCCU law professor and Supervising Attorney for the Civil Litigation Center. He has a long track record of defending those engaged in civil disobedience and there’s really no one better equipped to defend Takiyah Thompson and the other activists than him.

    I certainly hope that’s the case because I think these charges are absurd and, since I can’t imagine the DA dropping the charges given the public scrutiny, they need good representation at the probable cause hearing to get the charges tossed. Here’s a good explanation via twitter of why the charges are bogus from a local Durham attorney.

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