Get the latest BPR news delivered free to your inbox daily. SIGN UP HERE.
A Black Lives Matter demonstration outside of the Durham Police Department ended up with four people being arrested and their wooden pallets removed.
As the protest in front of the police headquarters in North Carolina entered its tenth day, demonstrators staying at a makeshift campground blocked off the road in front of the building. Police stepped in later in the day in an intense moment as the road was cleared and arrests were made.
“I’ll get locked up every day if I have to,” one protester shouted at police who arrested four people at the location.
Deonte Moses, Matthew Helton, Sheddrick Gibbs and Matthew Butler were arrested and charged with “impeding the flow of traffic and resisting, delaying or obstructing a law enforcement officer,” according to WTVD-TV.
(Source: News & Observer)
Shortly after 3 a.m. Thursday, the “Occupy Main” campout group blocked the road at the entrance of police headquarters on East Main Street, using pallets as a barricade, in its protest against the new city budget which includes a small increase for the Police Department.
“This is us saying we cannot wait anymore,” a protester told WRAL News on Thursday.
The first protesters set up tents in front of the Durham Police Department last week, after the city’s budget was approved which they oppose because of the extra funding for police, according to Gibbs, who leads the “Other American Movement” and was one of those arrested Thursday.
The group reportedly wants funds diverted to public housing and other community programs while the City of Durham maintained that there are no new positions or programs being funded for the police, only the continuing of ongoing operations.
Protesters have literally “moved in” at the Durham Police Department. About 10 tents have been erected at the front…
Three police officers initially spoke with protesters before the arrests, with one reportedly recording the encounter, according to the News & Observer. Following their departure, several more officers arrived, some on foot, and brought a pickup truck that they used in removing the wooden pallets. The protesters who were arrested had tried to protect the pallets and keep the officers from taking them.
Durham Police Chief Cerelyn Davis released a statement after the incident.
“The Durham Police Department is respectful of those who wish to exercise their First Amendment Rights and peacefully protest,” Davis said. “However, those privileges must be exercised while ensuring the highest level of public safety is afforded to our entire community. Blocking and impeding the flow of traffic with permanent structures in the public right of way is unacceptable, and interferes with the commuting public at large.”
The demonstrators at the campout area had been protesting a 5% increase for the Police Department which was included in the $502.6 million budget approved by the City Council on June 15.
According to The News & Observer:
The increase mostly covers costs associated with a federal grant that funded 15 police officers for three years, six gang-unit positions the council approved in March, and mandatory state retirement expenses.
The Durham Renewal Project requested millions of dollars in proposed changes to the city budget, including $1 million to help create and support black businesses that hire black employees, as well as grants and tax credits to create black-owned or operated grocery stores with black suppliers.
Another $2 million was being requested for a rent and mortgage assistance program for “Black and brown residents” and other initiatives, such as $500,000 for the creation of an LGBTQ community center operated by black LGBTQ community leaders and $3 million for an “Affordable Housing Stabilization Program.”
The view over Durham’s Main St. from Chopper-11.
“FUND” at the health department and “DEFUND” at the police department. pic.twitter.com/Lpon2FUNAP
— Steve Daniels (@DanielsABC11) June 23, 2020
One of the protesters camped outside the Durham police headquarters had said the group would stay put until changes are made.
“As long as it takes,” Sebastian Waldron said. “Or until they lock us all up. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen.”
Durham’s Ward 2 City Council Member Mark-Anthony Middleton pushed back on the “defund the police” movement this week.
“As a Black man in America, I understand the animated spirit of the defund movement,” Middleton told WTVD, adding that the city could not handle cutting its police force.
“You will notice immediately if we cut funding to the police without having some contingency plan,” he said.
Last week, Middleton issued a proposal titled, “The Way to Defund the Police is to Not Defund the Police. (Yet).” but noted that a denial by the city council of a request for additional police officers last year led to a noticeable rise in crimes and gang violence.
“I think that tells us something. If you try it with nothing to replace it, we’re just gonna default to our old positions,” Middleton said.
But his arguments fell on deaf ears as protesters demand action.
“I think what we need to admit is there is a direct correlation between poverty and crime. If your goal is to stop crime then you should probably stop poverty,” Gibbs had previously told WTVD, making it clear the group has no plans to dismantle their campout protest.
“We got all the time in the world,” he said.