The Atlantic

What's the Right Punishment for Tearing Down a Confederate Monument?

In Durham, the sheriff and district attorney appear divided over whether civil disobedience deserves greater leniency from the judicial system.
Source: Allen Breed / AP

DURHAM, N.C.—As a crowd of protestors put a strap around a Confederate memorial on August 14 and pulled it off its plinth, Durham County sheriff’s deputies kept a low profile. They didn’t intervene. Instead they stood aside, filming, as the 83-year-old statue crumpled on the lawn of the old court house.

It turns out that wasn’t a sign of acquiescence. The next day, Sheriff Mike Andrews produced arrest warrants for several of the protestors. They were charged with a pair of misdemeanors, but also with two felonies apiece: one for participating in a riot with property damage of more than $1,500, and inciting a riot with property damage of more than $1,500.

“Let me be clear, no one is getting away with what happened,” Andrews said.

Those unexpectedly strong charges have added a jolt to the already charged aftermath of the statue’s removal. Among Durham’s political leaders, there’s no love lost for the statue. Inside this diverse, liberal bastion, Confederate monuments are as unpopular as social justice is popular, and those who support the statue are for the most part marginalized. But

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