WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Four Wilmington activists have been charged with damaging a “Wilmington for Trump 2020” billboard sign earlier this month.
Nicole Nichelle Nelson (who is known as Lily Nicole), 33, Marion Timothy Joyner, 34, Joshua Gordon Zieseniss, 21, and James Earl Frazier, 27, surrendered to law enforcement on Tuesday and each charged with injury to personal property and injury to real property, according to a spokesperson for the Wilmington Police Department.
Frazier, Joyner, and Zieseniss are facing an additional charge of injury to personal property and second-degree trespass.
Will Knecht, Chair, New Hanover County Republican Party issued the following statement about the incident:
"America is built on the cornerstone of the First Amendment right to free expression, and this attack on the Trump billboard in downtown Wilmington was really an attack on First Amendment liberties enjoyed by all Americans. We applaud the fantastic work by the Wilmington Police Department in apprehending the alleged perpetrators. We are thankful that law enforcement quickly stepped in to ensure that the rule of law is enforced, so that all Americans can enjoy our right to free expression.
“We condemn this brazen attack on the First Amendment not as Republicans, but as Americans. We condemn the attempt to stamp out opposing political beliefs and viewpoints by bullying, intimidation, theft, and defacing of property...by anyone be they Democrat or Republican. We believe the individuals charged today are innocent until proven guilty and look forward to the due process of law playing out. We call on other members of the community to clearly condemn this act of vandalism to send a clear message that these actions will not be tolerated in New Hanover County."
WECT reached out to the democratic party for a response to the incident and subsequent arrests.
“It seems clear that a Trump billboard was vandalized, and we oppose that vandalism. The individuals who have been charged are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Candidates of both parties are entitled to make their case to voters, and it is important that they be allowed to do so,” said Richard Poole, Chair, New Hanover County Democratic Party.
The four people charged are accused of ripping apart the billboard, which is located just off North Third Street in downtown Wilmington, during the overnight hours of Oct. 8-9. The sign has since been replaced.
Nelson, Joyner and Zieseniss are listed as members of the Lowercase Leaders—an activist group that rose to prominence during the June protests in Wilmington following the death of George Floyd.