One of our favorite Saturday Night Live moments of all time: Weekend Update with Norm MacDonald the week after the O.J. Simpson verdict in 1995. The screen shows a photo of O.J. celebrating the acquittal and MacDonald simply says: “Murder is now legal in the state of California!” It was the perfect way to encapsulate the absolute absurdity of what still stands as one of the worst verdicts in the history of American justice.
More to the immediate point, it sets up our next story.
“Toppling Confederate monuments is now legal in the state of North Carolina!”
Okay, it doesn’t have the same ring to it, but nonetheless. That’s basically the affirmed case law in the Tarheel State after District Court Judge Frederick Battaglia found one statue-toppler not guilty and dismissed the charges against two others this week. The rest of the suspects, charged with knocking down a monument to Confederate soldiers in Durham in the aftermath of the Charlottesville chaos, had their charges dropped by the district attorney. Since, after all, if the judge is just going to do whatever he wants, there’s not much point in wasting any more taxpayer money.
“I do believe the evidence supported the misdemeanor charges, and we proceeded on those charges,” the DA said. “Acts of vandalism, regardless of noble intent, are still violations of law.”
Well, we can argue the point that there was any “noble intent” behind these protests, but besides that, we agree. If you do the crime, you do the time. That’s part of the decision you’re making when you do something like this. If these men wanted to make a statement so badly that they were willing to destroy property, then let them do the jail time and prove how dedicated they are to the cause.
To be sure, the judge said the dismissals were based on the fact that the prosecution failed to adequately prove their case and not because there was any “noble intent” behind the destruction. Then again, the O.J. jury said “not guilty.” The message, however it arrived, was heard loud and clear.
“This victory is the result of one thing and one thing alone: the conviction and determination of a mighty movement against white supremacy and the racist system that it upholds,” activist group Defend Durham said in a statement. “Power to the people! Fighting white supremacy is not a crime!”
Have fun with that, North Carolina!