Dovie Joyner and her three sons marched down Main Street in Durham Monday evening, dancing and shouting, “Who’s streets? Our streets!”
Joyner, who works as a patient assistant, came out to the International Workers Day March as a member of the Domestic Workers Alliance. Her sons had boxing lessons, but they chose to march instead.
Stopping traffic and keeping time with a drum beat, the boys (Jahbrile, six; Jahien, eight; and Jahsway, ten) agreed marching is cooler for boxing. For one, you’re allowed to yell “shit”—as in, “shut shit down!”—which, if you’re a kid, is as much of a rush as civil disobedience.
“It’s cool. People are holding signs to help people with what their problems are,” Jahsway said. The brothers made a sign that, among other messages, said, “Be kind to people.”
“It’s an experience for them to know their mother can stand for something,” Dovie said.
The family was among about eighty people gathered Monday afternoon in front of the under-construction police department at the corner of Main and Elizabeth streets.
The demonstrators protested against police brutality, police checkpoints, immigration enforcement, and the growing the Durham Police Department’s budget, including the new police headquarters, which will cost about $71 million. They also stood against discrimination, unlivable wages, the state’s anti-union policies, and funding cuts for education, health care, and public services.
Danielle Purifoy, with the advocacy group Durham Beyond Policing, said policing and labor issues are intertwined because they tend to affect the same people. This creates a vicious cycle of unemployment, low wages, and abuse by employers. The solutions for both labor issues and policing issues involve affordable housing, accessible health care, and rethinking established institutions like police departments.
“These are things you can’t disentangle,” she said.
Chanelle Croxton, with the Domestic Workers Alliance, acknowledged that the platform is broad but said she’s more concerned about the people affected by these issues than the politicians tasked with trying to address them. “We can’t just wait around for you to decide certain lives matter,” she said.
The group then marched to the Durham County Detention Center, along the way encountering a driver who was not keen on stopping for them.
(Had HB 330 already become law, the driver could have run them over and possibly been immune from civil liability.)
From there, they headed to City Hall, where a Durham City Council meeting was taking place.
Their reputation preceded them, as city staff wondered aloud whether the group would show, how many there would be, and what would they do. The group had lost some members since the march began.
As soon as Mayor Bill Bell opened the meeting, demonstrators lined up in front of the council members’ seats and began reading their platform. When protesters asked if anyone in the crowd wanted to add to their “people’s demands,” Bell offered a podium and a mic. The demonstrators continued chanting outside the council chamber for about ten minutes as Bell recognized the N.C. Central men’s basketball team, asking officers multiple times to keep the chamber doors closed. (“That’s passion right there,” Coach LeVelle Moton said of the protesters.)
Later in the meeting, police chief C.J. Davis gave her department’s first quarterly report of 2017. She highlighted that officers are responding faster to emergency calls, more than 150 body cameras have been deployed citywide, and that total traffic stops in the city are down from 20,780 in 2015 (and a high of 32,227 in 2010) to 14,785 last year. Black drivers were searched by police at a rate about three times higher than white drivers, although searches of black drivers were down by about 44 percent compared to 2015.
“I wish that the audience that had been around earlier had been around to hear this report,” Bell said.
Davis said she “had no opinion” on the demands of the demonstrators related to her department and that the group had a right to be there. “I was trying to figure out what the message was,” she told reporters after the meeting.