The statue had stood on the courthouse’s manicured lawn since 1924, when the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected it. At the time, it had been 59 years since the Civil War ended. The smell of tobacco wafted out of warehouses and factories and across downtown Durham, and a mile and a half down Main Street, tiny Trinity College hadn’t yet changed its name to Duke University. For 83 years, the Confederate picket watched over all who entered the building. And then, in a matter of seconds, he was gone, irreparably destroyed by his fall: his musket mangled, his legs bent forward, and a huge dent in his head from some zealous protester’s boot.
By the time I arrived, less than an hour after the statue had fallen, the street was blocked off by sheriff’s deputies’ cars. The protesters had marched a few blocks down Main Street, toward where the Durham Police Department is building a controversial new headquarters. A mix of young and old, black and white, graying hippies and black-clad anarchists, yelled “Fuck Trump” and held signs saying, “Black Lives Matter” and “The Whole Damn System Is Guilty as Hell.” “Street medics” stood to the side, ready if anyone was hurt. One man toted a guitar, seemingly more as prop than instrument.