Sheriff made right decision

It’s easy to criticize law enforcement officers when they make a bad decision and people get hurt. However, officers also should be praised when they do the right thing in trying circumstances, and that’s what occurred in Durham, N.C.

Two days after a violent confrontation between white nationalists and their opponents in Virginia, a crowd gathered outside the old Durham County Courthouse. A woman climbed a Confederate memorial statue and tied a rope around it, which others used to pull down the statue.

Many videos of the incident show no law enforcement presence. They focus on protestors, who chanted slogans like “We are the revolution” and cheered when the statue topples to the ground. More amusingly, several people were filmed kicking the metal monument, which must have resulted in some sore feet the next morning.

It turns out that officers were at the scene. But acting on a decision made by the sheriff, Mike Andrews, they did not intervene.

Even though a public statue was damaged or destroyed, the sheriff made the correct call. Short of lobbing some tear gas canisters, there were too many protestors there for law enforcement to prevent what was going to happen.

The sheriff said he did not think saving the statue was worth the risk of injury to protestors or officers. It had to be difficult for officers, who are sworn to uphold the law, to act with such restraint. It is to their credit that they did so, and because of that, no one got hurt.

However, the officers made some videos of their own during the disturbance. They used the videos to identify people who led the efforts to pull down the statue. So far, at least seven people have been arrested on both felony and misdemeanor charges. More arrests are expected.

The Associated Press and CNN reported that members of a communist group called the Workers World Party appear to be responsible for what happened. Given that the capitalism vs. communism debate has been over for nearly 30 years, it’s good to see the group’s Durham chapter has moved on to other issues.

Hopefully the members will learn from this experience that it rarely pays to take the law into your own hands. But since this fringe group most likely is suspicious of law enforcement, they probably won’t appreciate the most important message of this encounter: The officers’ decision to stand down prevented some of the protesters from being seriously injured.


Refill Café is a developing organization, run by Jeff Good, that will open late this year.