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After week of Raleigh protests, governor vetoes SB 168

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By Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez | NC News Intern Corps

NC BORN organizer Lauren Howell speaks to a circle of protestors on July 6, 2020 about a provision of a recently proposed bill, SB 168, that would have prevented some death investigation records from being released to the public. Photo by Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez | NC News Intern Corps.

As protestors objecting to SB 168 assembled in a circle across from the North Carolina Executive Mansion in Raleigh on Monday, spirits were already high. But at the end of the protest, they would be much higher.

The bill, which would prevent death investigation records shared with the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner from being released to the public, was vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper during the protest.

Some in the group had been camping out in front of the building for a week protesting the bill, passed almost unanimously by the North Carolina General Assembly on June 27. 

Just before the protestors arrived in Raleigh, North Carolina legislators introduced SB 232, which was meant to repeal the provision of SB 168 that the group was opposing.

Before Gov. Cooper vetoed SB 168, NC Building Our Revolution Now (BORN) organizer Lauren Howell said the fact that legislators introduced SB 232 was a win for the movement.

“It’s very obvious that we’ve gotten their attention,” Howell said. “Despite them acting like their constituents haven’t been sleeping outside of the Governor’s Mansion and asking for their help for days now.”

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Protestors discuss the proper way to address each other and voice concerns about a variety of political issues in front of the North Carolina Executive Mansion in Raleigh on July 6, 2020. Protestors had been camping on the sidewalk across from the building for about a week. Photo by Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez | NC News Intern Corps.

As people with signs opposing the police and SB 168 blocked Blount Street in front of the Governor’s Mansion, a group of about 100 people marched toward downtown Raleigh.

As they approached the North Carolina State Capitol, the marchers sat in a circle and blocked traffic at the intersection of South Salisbury Street and Hillsborough Street. There, Howell talked to the group about police brutality and Vanessa Guillen, a soldier at Fort Hood in Texas, whose remains were found after being allegedly killed by a fellow soldier.

In the middle of their discussion, Howell interrupted the group, “Guess what? Guess what?” she said.

People hold signs as they block the road for protestors to march in front of the North Carolina Executive Mansion on July 6, 2020. One sign says “Veto SB 168,” referring to a bill that would have limited death investigation records from the public. The bill was vetoed during the protest by Gov. Cooper. Photo by Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez | NC News Intern Corps.

Gov. Cooper had just vetoed SB 168.

The group, which had been marching for this exact outcome, erupted into applause.

Organizer Oliver Welsh said the veto was a result of the resiliency of the protestors, and the pressure they’ve put on Gov. Cooper by camping outside the Governor’s Mansion.

“It’s an affirmation that we really can change things, and we can change them fast if we stay committed to each other, we stay committed to fighting for what’s right and working together,” Welsh said.

As the protestors arrived back at the starting point of the march, a chorus of voices chanted even louder than they had at the beginning. 

Despite the marchers’ feeling that Gov. Cooper’s veto was a victory, Welsh said this isn’t the end of the road.

“There’s a lot more work to do,” Welsh said. “This is a small win in the battle for what we’re aiming for at the end of the day.”

The NC News Intern Corps is a program of the NC Local News Workshop, funded by the North Carolina Local News Lab Fund and housed at Elon University’s School of Communications.

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