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Woman charged with felony for tagging statue with chalk

June 12, 2020 GMT
National Guard troops take a position surrounding a portion of the State Capitol to protect it as protests occur nearby, Monday, June 1, 2020, in Atlanta. The recent death of George Floyd by police in Minnesota has sparked worldwide protests and rioting nationwide. (John Amis/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
National Guard troops take a position surrounding a portion of the State Capitol to protect it as protests occur nearby, Monday, June 1, 2020, in Atlanta. The recent death of George Floyd by police in Minnesota has sparked worldwide protests and rioting nationwide. (John Amis/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

ATLANTA (AP) — A woman arrested Thursday at the Georgia State Capitol for defacing a statue of a Confederate general wrote “tear down” on it in chalk, a police report shows, leading a protest organizer to question whether the action merits any criminal charges, much less a felony charge filed by the Georgia State Patrol.

State Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Lt. Stephanie L. Stallings said 55-year-old Jamie Loughner of Atlanta was arrested Thursday and charged with interference with government property, a felony, and criminal trespass, a misdemeanor.

Loughner was taken to the Fulton County jail where records show she remained jailed on Friday. Bail is set at $1,500. The Associated Press was unable to determine if she has a lawyer.

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The Georgia Capitol Police, a unit of the Department of Public Safety charged with protecting the capitol and other state government buildings, said the statue was “defaced,” Stallings said. According to a police report obtained Friday by The Associated Press, Loughner wrote in yellow chalk. Capitol Police Officer Alexis Rae Callaway wrote that Loughner admitted “that she had moved the set barricade and walked up the sidewalk.” Barricades have been in place around the perimeter of the building.

Protesters have been gathering near the statue of John Brown Gordon, on a corner of the capitol grounds, for daily protests demanding that it and other monuments be removed, saying they were white supremacists and that Georgia shouldn’t honor them. The protests spun out of other demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Organizer J.J. Nicole said Friday that Loughner was not part of her normal group of demonstrators, but has been circulating among various protests in Atlanta, surveying demonstrators on changes they want. Nicole said Friday that Loughner uses a walker and climbed the stairs from the street level on Thursday, where demonstrators were gathering, to the elevated capitol lawn and wrote on the base of Gordon’s statue in yellow chalk. Nicole said Loughner wrote “Tear Down,” part of the protest’s slogan of “Tear Down Gordon” and that about 10 officers then came out of the capitol to arrest her. Video on WXIA-TV showed the words.

“Dude, it’s chalk,” Nicole said. “Take a wet rag and wipe it off. She’s in a walker. Surely there’s better things to do with our resources. Per usual, the police response was 10 times more than what it needed to be.”

Interference with government property is punishable by one to five years in prison.

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Nicole said the only other arrest at her protests came when someone aimed a laser pointer at helicopters, a move she said she didn’t condone.

Gordon was a Confederate general during the Civil War and later served as governor and U.S. senator after Georgia rejoined the Union, becoming one of the most powerful politicians in a state Democratic Party devoted to white rule. Some historians have concluded that Gordon was the titular head of the post-Civil War Ku Klux Klan in Georgia.

“Right now, it’s literally a monument to racism,” Nicole said of why she was targeting the statue.

Georgia in 2019 passed a law prohibiting anyone from moving any historical monument, whether on public or private property. The state’s criminal trespass law specifically prohibits anyone intentionally defacing any monument to someone who served in the Confederate or U.S. military.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.