I have been critical of the handling of cases where protesters destroy statutes that they find offensive. When various protesters in North Carolina who torn down a statue in public and then celebrated their criminal acts in broad daylight. Because the statue of a civil war memorial, the act of property destruction was condoned by many and Durham District Attorney Roger Echols caved to the pressure in dropping all charges against everyone. It was effective immunity for a popular criminal act — a dangerous concept in any legal system. Not surprisingly, others soon claimed the right to unilaterally destroy property, including protesters on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s campus who took it upon themselves to destroy the controversial Silent Sam Confederate statue.
I was critical of not only the failure to stop the destruction of the statue despite police at the scene but the decision not to charge above the misdemeanor level. Maya Little, a 26-year-old doctoral student of history, mixed with her own blood with red ink on the statue and was equally unapologetic before the court in declaring “The Orange County court system must also reckon with the Black blood that stains it.”
Now Orange County District Judge Samantha Cabe has found Little guilty but the declined to impose any penalties. Cabe seemed to yield to the argument of Little that she was triggered by the statue or, as her counsel argued, “One person’s defacement is another person’s improvement.”
Cabe backed away from any punishment despite the premeditation of the act and lack of remorse. Cabe effectively left some public art without the real protection of the law in granting “continued judgment” — sparing Little for even paying court costs or a technical criminal violation.
The concern is that, once again, there may be no penalty (and thus no deterrent) for those planning and then destroying public art due to public support or sympathy with their acts.