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Confederate statue climber: Riot, damage charges are unfair

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DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — The protester who climbed a North Carolina Confederate statue to help topple it said Tuesday that she plans to fight rioting and property damage charges by seeing the case through to trial.

Takiyah Thompson was among nine protesters who appeared in court on charges that they tore down the statue in front of Durham's old courthouse. One fellow defendant struck a deal with prosecutors to avoid a felony, while Thompson and others had their cases continued until 2018.

Thompson said after the hearing that she won't take any prosecution deals and plans to go to trial because she believes the charges are unfair. Thompson has publicly acknowledged climbing a ladder and attaching the rope so that protesters on the ground could pull down the statue on Aug. 14.

She told reporters Tuesday that toppling the statue of an anonymous rebel soldier was the "will of the people" and that the legal case is symbolic of a larger struggle.

"It doesn't end until the fight against white supremacy is won, until white supremacy is abolished," she said.

Thompson was among a dozen protesters charged with felony rioting and misdemeanor property damage counts in toppling the statue days after a violent gathering of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia. A woman died taking part in a counterprotest against racism in Charlottesville.

While statues elsewhere have been vandalized, the Durham case earned national attention because protesters succeeded in toppling it. Some city leaders in other states have also chosen to bring down Confederate statues. North Carolina, among the handful of Southern states with the most Confederate monuments, has a law preventing local officials from removing them.

At Tuesday's hearing, Durham County Judge James T. Hill said he would allow a deferred prosecution deal for protester Ngoc Loan Tran on several misdemeanor property damage counts. Defense attorney Scott Holmes said the misdemeanors will be dismissed after Tran pays $1,250 in restitution and $180 in court costs, then completes 100 hours of community service. He declined to comment on the other defendants.

Thompson is one of eight due back in court for a hearing on Jan. 11. Charges were previously dropped against three others.

Also Tuesday, three defendants facing charges in another Durham demonstration had their cases continued until February. The men, charged with carrying a weapon or wearing a mask at a public gathering, were among hundreds who joined an impromptu August rally against racism amid rumors of a white supremacist march. Few if any white supremacists actually showed up.


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