Two Black families were forced to answer racist questions in a deposition last month as they fought for justice over the Raleigh Police Department’s illegal entry intp their homes. 

Cydneea Harrington wipes away tears during a deposition with the city of Raleigh.

Yolanda Irving and Kenya Walton, whose homes were raided in May 2020 after police entered with no warning, are suing the city of Raleigh for compensation for “loss of liberty … physical pain and injuries, serious psychological and emotional damage, and loss of quality of life,” according to the complaint.

The two mothers, along with their legal counsel, nonprofit Emancipate NC, held a press conference Monday to speak out about their experiences and the treatment they’ve faced during the lawsuit, which has been ongoing for nearly a year. 

“We want justice and that’s what we’re standing here for,” said Irving, near tears. “We were two moms that were just minding our business, going about our day, and they interrupted our lives. They chased me and Ms. Walton’s kids down with guns and they were innocent.” 

In response to the lawsuit, the city hired four private law firms, in addition to two city attorneys, for a defense. 

The city’s strategy, according to Emancipate NC, “has included accusing these innocent mothers and children of criminal wrongdoing and subjected them to a battery of invasive and inappropriate questions,” wrote attorneys Ian Mance and Elizabeth Simpson in an open letter to the Raleigh city council. 

“Lines of questioning have included: ‘Are you in touch with your birth father at all? Have you ever been?’ ‘When was the last time you had a job, if ever?’ ‘Do you have a particular rap artist you like?’ ‘What’s the significance of your tattoos?’” the attorneys wrote. 

Lawyers also questioned the children about the activities of street gangs in their neighborhood, playing on their “reasonable fears for their personal safety,” Mance and Simpson wrote.

“The deposition was disgusting, not fair,” said Walton during the press conference, terse. “[It] opened up wounds that shouldn’t have been opened. [Questions] that kids shouldn’t have to go through.”

Mance and Simpson put it more bluntly: “These questions are inappropriate, are steeped in racial stereotypes, and have been put to our clients despite a total absence of evidence that they or the SEU raid at issue had any connection to gang activity,” they wrote. 

The raid itself was a result of an incorrect address on the search warrant. The picture of the house is correct, but the address (of Irving’s home), is wrong. Police also entered the home of Irving’s next-door neighbor, Walton, for which they had no warrant at all. 

In addition, the warrant was obtained by disgraced former Raleigh police officer Omar Abdullah who was fired in 2021 after he worked with a corrupt informant to jail a dozen Black men on false drug charges. 

All in all, city of Raleigh leaders have some tough questions to answer, including why they continue to fight against a lawsuit that seems cut-and-dry. 

“Why are you not righting this wrong?” asked Kerwin Pittman, Emancipate NC’s Policy & Program director, during the press conference. “Why are you continuing to victimize this family that was already victimized the first time by Raleigh Police Department?”

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