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2 charged with inciting a riot for throwing John McDonogh statue in Mississippi River

Video from Duncan Plaza, which is directly in front of the New Orleans City Hall, shows protesters using a skateboard, rope and a chisel to topple the statue.

NEW ORLEANS — Two people have been charged with inciting a riot, as well as a host of other charges, for their alleged role in toppling a statue of slave owner John McDonogh in Duncan Plaza Saturday and dumping it in the Mississippi River. 

Arrest records indicate 27-year-old Caleb Wassell and 30-year-old Michaela Davis each face multiple charges. 

Wassell faced one charge each of illegal possession of stolen property, inciting a riot, theft under $1,000 and inciting a felony. His bail was initially set at $3,000. 

Davis was charged with battery of a police officer, being a principal to theft, possession of marijuana, inciting a riot, inciting a felony and aggravated flight from an officer. Her bail was set at $4,000. 

Magistrate Court Commissioner Robert Blackburn released the pair on their own recognizance, meaning that they were released without bail under an agreement to return for all court proceedings.

Credit: OPSO
Caleb Wassell (left) and Michaela Davis (right)

He also found no probable cause for arresting the pair on charges of inciting a felony. He also found no probable cause for Davis' charges of battery of an officer and aggravated flight from an officer. 

Court records indicate this is the first arrest for both in New Orleans. Information about a lawyer representing either of them was not immediately available. 

Police said they were the people who drove the statue to the river after it was dragged from its base to the intersection of Gravier Street and Loyola Avenue. 

The statue was of John McDonogh, a white slave owner who profited off black people who were forced to work for their freedom over a period of 15 years.

He developed a program where slaves he owned could buy their own freedom, generally over the course of 15 years while he took in money from their forced labor before they were able to earn their freedom.

McDonough left the bulk of his fortune to the cities of Baltimore and New Orleans to build public schools for poor children: white children and freed Black children. More than 30 public schools were built in New Orleans because of his donation.

Video from Duncan Plaza, which is directly in front of the New Orleans City Hall, and from the riverfront in the French Quarter, shows protesters using a skateboard, rope and a chisel to topple the statue from its stone base, and later pushing it down the rock shoreline of the Mississippi and into the river. 

A crowd of people can be seen cheering in both videos when the statue falls and when it is pushed into the river. 

Across the U.S., protests have been ongoing for more than two weeks after the death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd pleaded for air. 

The protests, against institutional racism and police violence, have led to statues being toppled or vandalized across the country. Many of the statues are of slave owners or confederate generals who fought against the United States during the U.S. Civil War. 

In New Orleans, protests have been largely peaceful. Five people were arrested June 3 after a violent clash between New Orleans police and protesters on the Crescent City Connection, where police used tear gas and rubber pellets known as "stinger rounds" against demonstrators attempting to march across the bridge into Jefferson Parish. 

The five arrested during that protests are the only people in New Orleans aside from Wassell and Davis the NOPD have taken into custody in relation to the protests.

NOPD sent a statement Saturday evening saying the pair had been taken into custody. According to John Simerman from the Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate, both were questioned by the FBI after their arrest. Jail records show both were booked into the Orleans Parish Jail early Sunday morning. 

Police said Sunday morning that they were also looking for a person of interest, who they say began to damage the statue with spray paint and a hammer. 

That man, seen in these photos provided by NOPD, was reportedly one of the main participants in vandalizing the statue. 

Credit: NOPD

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