Demonstrators rallied at a Durham County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night in what one participant called “a renewed opening salvo” demanding changes at the county jail.
About twenty-five people, including members of Inside-Outside Alliance and Alerta Migratoria, gathered in front of the county government building on Main Street. Earlier in the day, barricades were put up around the base of the now-dismantled Confederate monument out front. Before demonstrators showed up, about a dozen deputies gathered around the monument.
The two groups in the past have gathered at the steps of the building, sometimes heading inside to disrupt a commissioners meeting. A Facebook event for Monday’s rally made no mention of the Confederate monument, which was toppled by protesters on August 14 during a rally in response to a white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville.
Since the August 14 demonstration, Sheriff Mike Andrews has been calling on elected officials to develop guidelines for public assembliesfor example, better enforcement of the permitting process and facility use policies, and “to declare that they expect the laws to be observed.”
Monday’s crowd chanted, called Andrews a liar and a racist, and held signs reading, “This jail kills,” “Sanctuary for all,” and “Video ‘visit’ is Newspeak,” a reference to George Orwell’s 1984.
Some members of the group did go inside, delivering their demands to county commissioners via an adaption of Florence Reece’s “Which Side Are You On?”
“They say in Durham County/ there are no neutrals here/ the sheriff is a racist ass/ the people want what’s fair!” they sang to commissioners before joining the group outside and delivering an encore. (Demonstrators said they tried to get on the evening’s agenda, to no avail.)
The group called on the board to pass a resolution freezing new funding for the Sheriff’s Office until Andrews agrees to halt any collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, maintain in-person visitation at the county jail at is current levels, and never charge a fee for video visitation, which is being implemented at the jail next month. In addition, they want to see Andrews “testify under oath about his department’s collaboration with ICE, the deaths in the Durham Jail, and his plans for video visitation.”
Sandro Mendoza, a member of Alerta Migratoria, said the commissioners can expect to see demonstrations like the one held Monday until changes are made.
“It’s going to take the rest of the community who think Durham is progressive,” he said.