Mayor Steve Schewel missed the mark by pinning the blame for the property damage caused after Wednesday’s protest on white “outside agitators,” activists said Friday. 

Durham BURN, the organization planned the Wednesday night protest in honor of Breonna Taylor, released a statement Thursday night about claims from the mayor and police chief that damage in downtown Durham was due to white anarchists in “an attempt to co-opt a racial justice movement.”

“Steve Schewel, DPD, and local media tried to cremate our resistance movement by turning BURN into URN, dropping the ‘BIPOC’ from our name in order to attribute anarchist tactics and ideology to white ‘outside agitators,'” the group said in a statement. “The white person ‘co-opting the racial justice movement for their own purposes’ in Durham right now is Steve Schewel, who wants to erase Black, Indigenous, and other people of color’s radical politics, bold actions, and intentional community organizing work.”

The protest was one of many across the nation as a response to a Kentucky jury’s decision to not charge the three police officers that killed Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Louisville EMT, as she was sleeping in her apartment. One of the officers was charged for bullets that were fired into another home.

Around 40 Durham businesses had their windows smashed, and the police department headquarters was vandalized with spraypaint. While Minister Paul Scott said that the majority of the 50-person protest were white, Durham BURN says that Black people are still on the frontlines of the abolition movement, but that it is multiracial.

“The racial category of Blackness in the United States emerged in part in order to alienate poor white folks from their own political interests,” the group said. “Anti-Blackness has always been deployed and weaponized to encourage white folks to align themselves with the state and capital.”

In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Police Chief CJ Davis said that the broken windows and other vandalism would lead to a larger police presence at future protests so “community members know that we’re there and we’re paying attention.”

James Moore, a representative for Durham’s chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, mentioned that these remarks may have greater implications for future protests and free speech.

“They do this doublespeak where they applaud peaceful protesters, while in governance, do things that directly contradict the demands of those peaceful protesters,” Moore told the INDY. ” It’s creating this situation now where if another cop is acquitted for shooting an unarmed Black person, and people want to respond, and if we know the police are going to have a stronger presence in the streets because they’d be happy to stop these ‘white anarchists,’ then people are going to think twice about going out into the street again.”

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