DURHAM — Anti-hate protesters filled the streets of downtown Durham on Friday afternoon after false reports of a white supremacy rally circulated on social media.
The rumors began when the Indy Weekly, a progressive newspaper based in the Triangle, posted an article that one of their reporters had “heard that [Durham County] Sheriff Mike Andrews had confirmed that a hate group—possibly the Klan—was going to hold a demonstration.”
City Council member Jillian Johnson and local attorney Scott Holmes, who is representing the individuals arrested in connection to the destruction of a Confederate monument last week, substantiated the rumors on Twitter.
“White supremacists are marching at the new courthouse in Durham at noon today,” Johnson posted early Friday morning. She later acknowledged that no such rally took place, but not before the story had spread widely on Facebook and Twitter.
The Sheriff’s Department stressed numerous times that the reports were unverified, but immediately prepared for counter-protests by closing down some of the main streets and buildings in the downtown area, including two YMCA branches.
It is unclear if any hate group attempted to obtain a permit to demonstrate, but was denied.
Protests began around 1pm and spanned for several hours, and swat teams were deployed to the Bull City just a few days after similar anti-hate protesters toppled a Confederate solider monument in front of the old Durham courthouse.
The monument that had read “in memory of the boys who wore gray” — a reference to the Confederate uniforms — had been defaced with the phrase, “Death to the Klan.”
The Sheriff’s Department has arrested eight individuals in connection to the August 14th incident, and have included Class F felony charges for “inciting others to riot where there is property damage in excess of $1,500.”
In comparison to last week, Friday’s protest was a “peaceful demonstration” said Sheriff Andrews, who thanked the community for their cooperation later that evening.
Motivated by a national movement to remove Confederate symbols in public spaces and combat white supremacy after the violence in Charlottesville earlier this month, protesters carried signs that read “Deport Hate,” and “We Will Not Be Intimidated.”
Photographers for Reuters News also captured images of some individuals carrying weapons and burning a mock KKK sign.
The crowd said they would remain until Ku Klux Klan members took to the streets — but they never arrived.