GRAHAM — It looks like two U.S. charged with trespassing during a May rally at the Old Courthouse could beat the charges, but they really wanted to plead guilty and leave.
“My client is in the Corps,” said defense attorney Dan Monroe. “He wants to get this over with.”
Monroe represented Joseph Warner Manning, 32, of Jacksonville, who along with co-defendant Michael Joseph Chesny, 35, of Havelock, was arrested on May 20 during a Confederate rally in Graham’s Court Square. Police say they climbed on top of 101 N. Main St., a building adjacent to the historic courthouse, prior to Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County’s Confederate Memorial Day rally without permission of the owner, Jason Cox.
They face misdemeanor charges, which the does not like, but they are probably in more trouble because while they were on that roof, they let down a banner that read, “He who controls the past controls the future,” a quote from George Orwell’s novel “1984,” and also featuring an “Identitarian” symbol and the letters “YWNRU” on the side.
The acronym stands for “You will not replace us,” the slogan chanted by demonstrators carrying torches in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend and on May 13 at protests surrounding the removal of a Confederate monument. According to a protest leader, the slogan is an affirmation of being white.
District Court Judge Fred Wilkins, however, was concerned with matters of law rather than the national controversy.
“Was the property posted?” Wilkins asked.
There was not a “no trespassing” sign, though Assistant District Attorney Katie Hayes argued the statute allowed for a criminal charge if the defendant was in a place a reasonable person would know they were not allowed.
“They had to use a ladder to scale to roof,” Hayes said, “where no member of the public would have access.”
Wilkins said it should take more than a lack of access.
“I don’t think you have the factual basis for the crime,” Wilkins said.
Monroe withdrew Manning’s guilty plea, and he and Chesny had their cases continued to Oct. 10.
Reporter Isaac Groves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-506-3045. Follow him on Twitter at @tnigroves.