Raleigh protests for racial justice: What to know now

Happening now:

▪️ Community members such as Raleigh PACT have called for a stronger police oversight board for years. The Raleigh City Council decided to send a letter to North Carolina leaders in support of changing state rules that limit what cities can allow. Read more at INDY Week.

▪️ Governor Roy Cooper vetoed a controversial bill that would limit access to death investigation records. This came after protesters gathered outside of the Governor’s Mansion for a week, some camping out,to urge him to veto SB 168, which could have restricted access to public records about people who die in the custody of law enforcement. [read the full story]

▪️ The Raleigh Transit Authority wants the Raleigh City Council to affirm GoRaleigh buses won’t be used to transport Raleigh Police Department officers to Black Lives Matter protests or to transport protesters who are arrested in the future. A resolution included with the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting shares why. [more info + materials]

▪️ Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker defended law enforcement’s use of force, tear gas, on protesters during a Monday meeting with Wake County Board of Commissioners. Using tear gas during May 30 protests was “absolutely necessary,” the News & Observer reports he said.

▪️ Juneteenth will be a paid holiday for Wake County workers next year. [WUNC]

▪️ The Second Chance Act is now law, giving people with non-violent misdemeanor offenses or dropped charges a better chance at employment, a contributor to RALToday writes.

▪️ Body camera footage from Raleigh Police shows arrest of a 17-year-old girl police claimed assaulted an officer. No assault is evident in the video, which you can watch for yourself, INDY Week reports.

Confederate monuments come down

Proving more difficult to remove the 75-foot Confederate monument than expected, workers were finally able to remove the pillar and base overnight between June 23-24. [Watch a video here]

On Juneteenth, June 19, the anniversary of the last enslaved people in the U.S. discovering they’d been emancipated 2 1/12 years before, protesters demanding racial justice marched the streets of Raleigh.

Later that night, protesters pulled down the two bronze statues of Confederate soldiers on the North Carolina State Capitol grounds:

INDY Week has more.

Governor Roy Cooper ordered the removal of the Confederate monuments on the Capitol grounds removed, citing public safety reasons:

The three monuments Governor Roy Cooper ordered removed included the monument to Confederate women, the monument to the first soldier killed and the large, 75-foot-tall monument that had the bronze statues removed from the sides by protesters and the top by work crews. 

Crowds — and musicians — celebrated the monuments’ removal, but work crews’ attempts to remove the largest monument proved more challenging.

As of midday Monday, June 22, police had blocked off Salisbury and Hillsborough streets, but no crews were on site. Fencing was placed around most of the Capitol grounds.

More equipment arrived that night, WRAL reports, and more was attempted on June 23 before successful dismantling. The stone base of the monument was later removed.

City chooses group for independent review of police response to protests

The City of Raleigh will hire 21CP Solutions for an independent review of Raleigh Police Department’s response and use of force during the May 30-31 protests. 

“Some change is needed and welcomed,” RPD Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown in the City Council meeting before public comment began.

While the council’s approval wasn’t required to approve the contract with 21CP Solutions, City Manager Ruffin Hall said, but wanted the council’s support.

Council member Saige Martin criticized that most of 21CP staff are past law enforcement, which others in public comment touched on.

Corey Branch commented that he appreciated that 21CP Solutions is demographically diverse and have experience working with communities of color. 

RPD will do internal review and 21CP will do an independent review.

21CP Solutions’ founding partner Charles H. Ramsey recently co-authored a column in the Washington Post that sheds some light on his view: Defunding police departments isn’t the answer, he writes, but instead shifting funding “away from roles that police have absorbed over time, and establish guidelines on what society wants and needs from police, including how we expect the police to act in our service.”

The former Philadelphia Police Commissioner served on President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing from 2015. The column directs readers to view the report’s “framework for reform with 92 action steps.”

The News & Observer reports that when 21CP Solutions investigated the beating and choking of an unarmed Black man by an Asheville police officer, 21CP didn’t speak with the man or Black community members because the contract didn’t explicitly ask the group to look at the relationship between the Black community and police.

The independent review will include, according to the city manager’s memo:

  1. “Conducting a comprehensive review of Raleigh Police Dept. policies and procedures in order to assess the tactics utilized during the protests; and
  2. Evaluating RPD’s response to violence and crime during the protests to determine gaps in policy, procedure, training, or department practice that may be inconsistent with constitutional policing, national best practices, and the policing philosophy adopted by the Raleigh Police Department; and
  3. Preparation of a comprehensive written report that details its findings and recommendations. The report will specifically highlight, and address areas of concern identified by residents, community organizations, RPD, and its officers in 21CP’s stakeholder engagement process.”

➡️  Ways to contact local officials + more [RaleighConvergence.com]

Statue of white supremacist removed from Nash Square, school renamed:

Read more: [News & Observer]

Daniels Middle School was renamed Oberlin Middle School by Wake County Public Schools System leadership Tuesday night. It’s a nod to Oberlin Village, a community founded by formerly enslaved people. Oberlin School, closed in 1966, was a school for Black students in West Raleigh.

What else to know: 

▪️ Wake County Commissioners say they’ll speak with the Wake County Sheriff’s Office about reforming practices. The Commissioners’ relationship with the Sheriff’s Office is different than the city; the Sheriff is an independently elected official and receives money from the budget in one amount.

▪️ Raleigh City Council approved their budget without the requested increase for Raleigh Police Department. [News & Observer]

▪️ N.C. B.O.R.N. (NC Building Our Revolution Now) organized protests this weekend around police brutality, seeking justice for the deaths of three Raleigh men: Akiel Denkins, Soheil Mojarrad, and Keith Collins.

▪️ What does defunding the police mean? What some cities are doing. [News & Observer] + In Wake County, it’s budgeted as one sum. [RaleighConvergence.com]

▪️ A plaque in honor of George Floyd was added to the Confederate monument on the Capitol grounds by Raleigh United, covering “to our Confederate dead.”

The plaque reads in part: “We recognize the breakdown and the build-up that brought us together, and the change that has been put in motion.”

Raleigh police policy changes

Raleigh city leaders announced Raleigh Police Department will implement the 8 Can’t Wait policies, adding a ban on chokeholds and strangleholds, requiring de-escalation and a ban on shooting at moving vehicles:

Dawn Blagrove, executive director of Emancipate NC, which is part of the coalition of Raleigh Demands Justice groups, asked the mayor why she chose #8CantWait over local demands and presentations, the News & Observer reported.

#RaleighDemandsJustice Coalition’s specific demands also include subpoena powers for the police oversight board, no new police stations in mostly Black neighborhoods and rerouting public safety funds to community-led strategies.

More news:

▪️ The family of Soheil Mojarrad, a man shot and killed by a Raleigh police officer last year, is suingthe city manager and police chief. [WUNC]

Governor establishes racial equity task force

To address systemic racial bias in North Carolina’s justice system, Governor Roy Cooper established a racial equity task force on Tuesday through executive order.

The North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice will examine strategies, solutions and implementation for the racial disparities seen in North Carolina’s criminal justice system.

He mentioned statistics such as:

  • Black adults are 6 times more likely to be incarcerated than white adults.
  • When convicted of the same crime, black men receive a 20% longer sentence than white men

“Real change is overdue and must come now,” said N.C. Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls, who will lead the task force with Attorney General Josh Stein.

The task force will also examine law enforcement practices and accountability.

Along with the announcement of the task force, immediate changes for law enforcement under the Department of Public Safety purview will:

  • Have a duty to intervene policy in place
  • Review existing policies, such as when use of force is needed and when it’s not
  • Review of de-escalation policies

Read more in an FAQ.

What’s next: The task force’s report for state and local recommendations is due by Dec. 1.

RPD Chief seeks review:

Raleigh’s police chief, Cassandra Deck-Brown, has asked for an independent review of the RPD response to the protests, the News & Observer reports. In her memo, she says Wake County Sheriff’s Office first released tear gas on protesters over the weekend and “created volatile circumstances for hours to come.”

Raleigh’s state of emergency and citywide curfew is lifted, Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin announced Monday:

The City of Raleigh declared a State of Emergency on Monday, June 1, which originally included a citywide curfew from 8 p.m.-5 a.m. Residents were ordered to stay at home unless it’s a medical emergency.  It was extended on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Thursday’s revised citywide curfew began later, at 10 p.m., and was extended through Sunday night.

Protests against racial injustice and police brutality have continued in Raleigh for more than a week. On Sunday, a candlelight vigil was held at the Capitol while artists created murals around Downtown Raleigh.

On Saturday, groups marched through the streets of Raleigh while flags were ordered at half-staff in memory of George Floyd. The world-changing North Carolina man’s memorial was held near Fayetteville Saturday.

At the June 4 Raleigh City Council special meeting, more than 130 people spoke and 200 were still waiting to be heard when the three-hour virtual meeting ended, the News & Observer reports.

Most speakers were critical of how police responded to protests, the use of tear gas on protesters. Several were from Raleigh PACT (Police Accountability Task Force), INDY Week reports

Raleigh PACT is one the organizations in the #RaleighDemandsJustice Coalition, whose specific demands include subpoena powers for the police oversight board, no new police stations in mostly Black neighborhoods, a policy requiring other officers intervene if one becomes overly abusive with a detainee, and rerouting public safety funds to community-led strategies.

Meanwhile, protests continued.

Catch up:

On May 30-31 (a Saturday and Sunday), peaceful protests against police brutality and the unjust deaths of Black men and women turned to conflict as the nights went on. Tear gas, rubber bullets and other means of force were used by police officers in riot gear on protesters.

Later, fires and property damage followed both Saturday and Sunday nights. Details are still unclear, but white supremacist symbols and anti-police graffiti were found downtown.

Peaceful protests and marches have continued in Downtown Raleigh every day since.

READ MORE: Resources for a more just and equitable Raleigh

On Saturday, peaceful protests demanding justice marched through Downtown Raleigh.

The protests in Raleigh and around the world came after the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

Police began using tear gas on demonstrators around 7 p.m. Saturday.

By around 9 p.m. Saturday, INDY Week reports things took a turn as windows were smashed at the Wake County Public Safety building.

The News & Observer reports the point of escalation was when a group of people rushed the “sally port,” an entrance to the jail.

More use of force followed.

A News & Observer reporter on the scene tweeted that people, including children, were tear gassed without warning.

Black-owned businesses were among those broken into, including Social Status, a sneaker store, and Zen Succulent, a plant store.

On Sunday morning, people poured into Downtown Raleigh to help local business owners clean and board up broken windows. Some groups, including this Facebook event, organized volunteers.

Most businesses on Fayetteville Street were damaged. Many on Wilmington Street and Hargett street were also damaged.

Volunteers scrubbed graffiti or covered messages with sidewalk chalk. Still others wrote messages of encouragement.

Some graffiti was anti-police, but hateful white supremacy symbols were also found spray-painted on walls and businesses.

On Sunday evening, protests continued.

An INDY Week reporter tweeted peaceful protests were met with tear gas from Raleigh Police.

One video shows Wake County Sheriff’s deputies using “riot-control munitions” at the owner of Ruby Deluxe, who had set up a first-aid station in the parking lot, News & Observer reports.*

(Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the law enforcement officers as Raleigh police)

Wake County Sheriff’s office defended this use of force:

Monday:

The third night of protests ended quietly, with protesters mostly dispersing around the citywide curfew, News & Observer reports.

Tuesday:

Capitol police took a knee with protesters:

This is an evolving story. Follow News & Observer, INDY Week and others for more up-to-the-minute info.

Author: raleighconvergence

Sarah Day Owen Wiskirchen is the editor of Raleigh Convergence.

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