We previously discussed the arrest of four protesters arrested for the destruction of a roughly century-old statue of a Confederate soldier in North Carolina. The public, premeditated act was was carried out in front of news cameras in broad daylight. Moreover, the arrested individuals seemed proud of the crime and various advocates called for all charges to be dropped against Takiyah Thompson, 22, Dante Strobino, 35, Ngoc Loan Tran, 24, and Peter Gilbert, 39. Indeed, faculty declared Thompson a hero for her vandalism and Political Science Professor Allan Cooper of North Carolina Central University called for Thompson to be given a scholarship.
Now, Durham District Attorney Roger Echols has dropped all felony charges against the eight protesters.
Thompson and the others will only face misdemeanor. However, the destruction of a public art piece in a mob action has been deemed unworthy of a felony charge. While some or all of these offenders may be first offenders, that criteria alone is not necessarily dispositive if a crime is premeditated and serious. Moreover, the protesters organized and filmed what could be construed as a mob or riot action around this statue. They then celebrated the act on film.
As discussed earlier, these individuals were clearly unwilling to join the debate over the removal of confederacy images or figures. Instead, they destroyed not just a piece of history but a piece of art that, if the community decided in favor of removal, could have been placed in a museum or alternative setting.
The concern is that this was a popular crime given the offense of the statue to many in the community. However, Echols is not supposed to treat popular and unpopular crimes differently. Otherwise, justice becomes an extension of the mob. That is why it is called mob justice to simply commit property damage when you believe that it is warranted.
Thompson however was still irate that even a minor misdemeanor would be charged since she has the public on her side and that her actions were justified. Indeed, she indicated that the dropping of the felony charges came only after Echols felt the pressure of public opinion: “Since these outrageous charges were filed against us, thousands upon thousands of people from across the country have called the DA and other city officials demanding the charges be dropped.”
What do you think about the dropping of the felony charges in this case? Do you agree with Thompson that all of the charges should have been dropped?