Mayor Nancy McFarlane told a “boisterous” crowd at Tuesday’s city council meeting that Raleigh doesn’t plan to set up a police substation on the Shaw University campus, and their protests resulted from a misunderstanding between the university and the city.
The announcement that the move would not take place came after a group of Shaw students opposed it during Tuesday’s hearing, which at times more closely resembled performance art than typical community response.
“For us, more police does not equal more safety,” Shaw student Essence Shelton told council members.
Shelton’s remarks came after a lengthy hearing during which speakers rapped, recited poetry, sang, and spoke vehemently, sometimes from the audience. Percussion from what sounded like a djembe accompanied the speakers and comments about bad relationships between police and citizens in downtown and southeast Raleigh.
McFarlane said Raleigh is prepared to work toward Shaw president Tashni-Ann Dubroy’s ultimate goal—better communication between the city and the historically black campus in downtown. “We don’t put substations on a campus,” McFarlane said today. “I don’t think that was her real goal.”
The public hearing’s aftershocks continued during the council’s three-day retreat at the N.C. Museum of Art, which is taking place Wednesday through Friday.
“I couldn’t even look at them because it was so frustrating to me,” council member Bonner Gaylord said today.
During Tuesday’s hearing, neither council members nor McFarlane interrupted the speakers, whom members termed “boisterous.” Several speakers came from the Raleigh Police Accountability Community Taskforce, which works to “end racial profiling, selective enforcement, excessive force and harassment by police,” according to its website.
At the retreat, council members discussed vetting speakers’ presentation before the meeting and disallowing those who planned to sing or use noisemakers.
“They’re going to get as much respect as they give us,” McFarlane said.
But no one advocated interrupting the three-minute space allotted to each speaker. To do so Tuesday would have increased the effectiveness of the demonstrators by giving them greater visibility, Gaylord said.
“Under the circumstances,” said council member Corey Branch, “the way it was handled was the best way for it to happen.”
‘Could We At Least Try?’
In other action Tuesday, council members heard that there’s no way to save any of the houses on the short Raleigh street Maiden Lane, long a party destination for fraternity members and other tenants. Power lines, stop signs, and narrow streets make it impossible to move the houses, some dating to the nineteenth century, from their sites across from the N.C. State campus, city neighborhood officials said.
“Could we at least try to salvage at least one of the houses on Maiden Lane?” council member Kay Crowder asked. “One of them is from 1826. I think it’s unfortunate for a city of our size that we can’t find a way to save a house from the eighteen hundreds.”
Representatives of developers the Leon Capital Group, which will replace the houses with a multimillion development, said the company has agreed to donate $25,000 to the rehabilitation of the N.C. State Bell Tower and $17,500 to the cause of historic preservation in Raleigh.