Michael Forcia, 56, and others took down the statue in St. Paul on the ground of the Minnesota State Capitol on June 10. The toppling was captured on video, including by news cameras.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said that the charge would likely be dealt with in an atypical manner.
“Given the impact of this action on residents across our state and the divisive reactions it has engendered, we believe administering justice in this case requires an extraordinary step—the active engagement and participation of our community,” Choi said in a statement.
“We are working on developing a restorative process to give voice to those divergent opinions and bring people who hold them together to determine how best we hold Mr. Forcia accountable while healing our community from the harm that was caused. By employing restorative principles in a way that unites rather than divides us, we have a greater opportunity to achieve true justice for our community, to respond more meaningfully and in due time, rather than waiting more than a year for an adversarial trial that would not provide adequate closure for our community and likely create additional division. The pursuit of justice should always seek to unite a community rather than divide it.”
Forcia told KARE 11 after helping topple the statue, “After we were done, I was told that, yes, I will be arrested, I will be charged with criminal damage to property.”
“But that’s part of what happens, so I’m willing to take that,” he said.
According to a criminal complaint, Forcia told police officers hours after the statue was toppled that he’d been trying to tear it down for two years.
Forcia admitted to creating a Facebook event page that organized the gathering that led to the statue being taken down.
Forcia is the leader of the Twin Cities chapter of a group called the American Indian Movement. The national movement president, Frank Paro, told others that he did not sanction the organization and, in fact, was trying to actively keep people from attending the toppling, Nigel Perrote, the tribal liaison for the state Department of Public Safety, told investigators.
Perroto also said that Forcia had been warned by police officers about the consequences of pulling the statue down.
“Mr. Forcia said that the statue is coming down that day and he did not care about the potential consequences,” officers wrote.
The estimated cost to repair the statue and the surrounding area totaled $154,553.
A female was also identified as an organizer of the event. Despite admitting to organizing the gathering and handing a bundle of rope to Forcia, she has not been charged.
Forcia, who refused to tell investigators the names of anybody else involved in the event, told investigators that he took the statue down in an effort to teach others about racism.
Forcia faces up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted.