The Raleigh City Council held a special session Thursday evening to hear from the public about the city’s response to the recent Black Lives Matter protests. This came a day after Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said she signed a pledge from the Obama Foundation calling for mayors to review and reform their community policing policies.
Almost all callers expressed their disagreement with the Raleigh Police Department’s handling of protests this weekend. The police have come under fire for their use of tear gas on protesters this weekend, which often appeared to be unprovoked. Tear gas is banned under the Geneva Convention, and police communication shared by attorney and INDY columnist T. Greg Doucette revealed that some tear gas used was expired.
“I’ve attended the protests in Durham, and they’ve been nothing but peaceful because the police department has been hands-off to let us exercise our First Amendment right,” resident Kristen Hill told the council. “To Mayor Baldwin, you could really learn from Mayor [Steve] Schewel, especially when it comes to working with the community.”
Council member Saige Martin led the discussion, allowing callers one minute to speak their minds on RPD’s use of force. The hearing lasted for almost two hours.
Multiple people spoke on behalf of the activist group Raleigh PACT and called for Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown to resign if their demands were not met. Several called for Baldwin to resign, as well.
These demands include giving subpoena power to the police oversight board, not building new police stations in predominately Black neighborhoods, and more. Others demanded the removal of the Confederate monuments on the state’s Old Capitol Building, although this was unrelated to PACT’s list of demands.
— ACLU of North Carolina (@ACLU_NC) June 4, 2020
The RPD currently has no ban on chokeholds or stranglehold, nor does it require de-escalation. Officers are also able to review body-cam footage before submitting reports following a police-involved shooting.
“I’m just wondering where y’all have been,” Skye McCollum told the council. “You’ve been hiding behind your computer screens while Raleigh police forces hurt your constituents. And I’m not just talking about this last week: You’ve been complicit in police violence in Raleigh since before your terms even began.”
McCollum is referencing council members Patrick Buffkin, David Cox, and Saige Martin, who all received funding from Southern States Police Benevolent Association PAC during their most recent campaigns. Several activists have called for the council members to return that money. (The SSPBA has recently rescinded its endorsement of Martin.)
Raleigh is under curfew for the fourth night in a row, this time ending at 10:00 p.m. Baldwin has said that this isn’t a “long-term solution,” but it lets the community “pause.” Some speakers demanded the curfew be rescinded due to its effect on service workers.
The one-minute-per-speaker limit was strictly followed, and one person could be heard saying they didn’t have enough time before they were cut off. Still, residents spoke for almost three hours, with more than 200 still waiting to be heard. The meeting was cut off at 9:55 p.m. to adhere to the city’s curfew.
Toward the end of the meeting, Kim Burke-Smith spoke about her fears that her son would not return home. “I am a businesswoman, a homeowner, and a mom, a Black mom, with a son that’s amazing in Raleigh, North Carolina,. And I can not even sleep until my son is in the house safely—”
She went over her allotted time by 10 seconds and was cut off.
“Thank you so much for joining us, I appreciate it,” Martin said.
Correction: This story previously reported that Deck-Brown was not present at the meeting, per a tweet from a reporter at a different publication. She was actually in attendance throughout the city council meeting.
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