North Carolina Man Charged for Starting Riots and Toppling Confederate Statues

June 23, 2020 Updated: June 23, 2020

A North Carolina man was arrested Sunday night for allegedly starting a riot over the weekend that led to the toppling and damaging of two Confederate monuments in the state capitol in Raleigh.

Conrad Paul James, 27, has been charged with inciting a riot—a felony in North Carolina—first-degree trespass, resisting an officer, and injury to personal property, according to a news release from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.

James was part of the Friday and Sunday night demonstrations when two statues of Confederate soldiers that were part of a larger obelisk were torn down by protesters.

“According to the arresting officer, last night the suspect jumped the fence around the Three Presidents monument in Union Square and failed to go back to the other side of the fence after being told to do so several times,” State Capitol Police Chief Chip Hawley said.

“The arresting officer reported that after being placed under arrest, the suspect began to resist, kicking violently at the officer and the officer’s patrol vehicle, causing damage to it. Further investigation concluded the suspect was also a suspect in the events involving the monuments at the capitol Friday night,” he continued.

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Conrad Paul James, 27 in a booking photo. (Wake County Jail)

James is being held in the Wake County Detention Center on a $55,000 secured bond, according to the release.

According to jail records, James was arrested earlier this month for failing to return a rental car in April. He is due in court on that charge on Thursday, WRAL reported.

Police officers initially stopped the demonstrators from toppling the monuments, but after they cleared the area, the protesters returned, dragging the statues down the street and stringing one up by the neck from a lamp post.

On Saturday morning, official work crews came to the North Carolina capitol to remove two more Confederate statues. One statue was dedicated to the women of the Confederacy, and another was placed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy honoring Henry Wyatt, the first North Carolinian killed in battle in the Civil War.

Gov. Roy Cooper said he ordered the removals for public safety and blamed the state General Assembly for difficulty in ordering their removal.

“If the legislature had repealed their 2015 law that puts up legal roadblocks to removal, we could have avoided the dangerous incidents of last night,” Cooper posted on Twitter. “Monuments to white supremacy don’t belong in places of allegiance, and it’s past time that these painful memorials be moved in a legal, safe way.”

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Crews add the Henry Wyatt Monument to a truck after removing them from the North Carolina state capitol in Raleigh on June 20, 2020. (Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP)

Cooper’s opponent for a second term in November, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, issued a statement saying Cooper did nothing to stop the destruction of statues and was either incompetent or encouraging lawlessness.

“It is clear that Gov. Cooper is either incapable of upholding law and order, or worse, encouraging this behavior,” Forest said.

Numerous Confederate statues have been vandalized or torn down in recent weeks nationwide following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody after a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck during an arrest.

Television images also showed a statue of Confederate General Albert Pike, which was located near Judiciary Square in Washington, being pulled down with ropes on Friday night as protesters cheered “Black Lives Matter.” The protesters then appeared to use a flammable liquid to set fire to the statue, which police put out.

President Donald Trump said on Twitter: “D.C. Police are not doing their job as they watch a statue be ripped down & burn. These people should be immediately arrested. A disgrace to our Country!”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.