Takiya Thompson, 22, a member of the far-left Workers World Party and a student at N.C. Central University, has been arrested on felony charges for her role in taking down a Confederate statue in Durham, N.C., on Tuesday. She is facing felony charges, which could result in her spending years in prison. In a video circulated widely on social media, Thompson could allegedly be seen climbing a statue erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a group known for glorifying the Confederate cause and rejecting the role of slavery in the Civil War. The footage appears to show Thompson tying a rope around the statue’s neck, and helping the crowd pull the statue to the ground. Police said that Thompson, who was arrested on Tuesday after holding a news conference about the protest alongside other activists at N.C. Central University, had confessed to climbing the monument.
“The people decided to take matters into our own hands and remove the statue,” said Thompson at the press conference before her arrest. “We are tired of waiting on politicians who could have voted to remove the white supremacist statues years ago, but they failed to act. So we acted.”
The statue, which was installed in 1924 amid a wave of other Confederate memorials, would have been difficult to remove through legal means. A 2015 law, passed in the midst of a debate over the removal of a Confederate statue on the University of North Carolina campus, made it illegal to remove monuments and other landmarks without state approval. Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat who won a closely contested election last year, had called on the state legislature to repeal the 2015 law and to defeat a bill, recently passed in the State House, that would give drivers who hit protesters with cars legal immunity.
Thompson’s bold show of defiance calls to mind a similar act in June 2015 by self-described freedom fighter Bree Newsome, who scaled the flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina State House and removed the Confederate Flag that once flew there. Newsome was arrested, but the pressure the act put on government officials resulted in the flag being taken down for good within two weeks. Below, watch Thompson discuss why she decided to take part in ripping down the statue in Durham.
The defiant act won Thompson the praise of singer Solange Knowles, who before deleting her Twitter account posted a scathing message calling for Thompson to be freed, according to Mashable. “My son’s first day of school has been in the midst of seeing these bullshit images that still tell him this system was built to be against him,” Knowles wrote. “Thinking about demanding he not be required to take American History because its deep dark rooted ugliness continues to live right now, right before our eyes.” Thompson has been released on bail.
Watch video of the statue being taken down below.