Police, civil rights group in $336K accord over 2020 protest

Jun 15, 2022, 1:05 AM | Updated: 4:23 pm

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A city and two law enforcement agencies in a North Carolina county will pay $336,000 to a group of plaintiffs to settle a lawsuit stemming from a 2020 protest in which demonstrators were pepper-sprayed during a get-out-the-vote rally.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and a Chicago-based law firm announced the agreement in a news release on Wednesday. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in November 2020 and named as defendants the city of Graham and Police Chief Kristi Cole, 15 police officers, Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson and 15 deputies.

“It is outrageous that people marching to the polls to cast their ballot were met with police brutality. The right to gather and march in support of a shared cause is at the core of the First Amendment,” Chantal Stevens, executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina, said in the news release. “This agreement is a step in the right direction, but it’s insufficient to reckon with the violence and trauma that these community members endured at the hands of police.”

Neither Graham Town Manager Megan Garner nor Acting Alamance County Attorney Debra Bechtel immediately returned telephone calls seeking comment Wednesday. The police department said in a news release that while the city admitted no guilt, “it was in the best interest of our community to equitably settle the lawsuit and avoid the expense of extended litigation.”

The three groups represented 17 individuals as well as community groups that had organized with hopes of bringing racial justice and ending police violence and other forms of racial oppression, the news release said.

Police had said participants in the Oct. 31, 2020, rally were pepper-sprayed and arrested because they were blocking a street without permission.

Graham police said at the time they issued several warnings to the crowd at Alamance County’s courthouse to move from the street before releasing pepper spray and later making eight arrests.

A police department press release said the Rev. Greg Drumwright initially asked police and the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office if authorities could block the street for the demonstrators, but the request was never completed because Drumwright “missed the deadline,” Graham police said.

Police said protesters stopped in the street for about nine minutes, creating traffic backups “in all directions around court square.” At the time, Drumwright said the group was permitted to stand in the courthouse square and was escorted through the streets by police. He also said that the group had “no intention” of having the rally in the street.

Later, police asked the crowd to disperse, giving them a five-minute warning to leave the roadway. After the time passed, police said, they released the spray toward the ground, not “directly” toward any participant. They have said there were small children also present.

Last year, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that both the police department and the sheriff’s office failed to comply with a court-ordered deadline for releasing videos that show officers using the pepper spray. The video was to be released to a coalition of news organizations.

In addition to the financial settlement, Cole agreed to have an on-the-record meeting with any of the plaintiffs who would like to join within 60 days in the final resolution of the lawsuit.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Much of drought-plagued West Coast faces salmon fishing ban

The surreal and desperate scramble boosted the survival rate of the hatchery-raised fish, but still it was not enough to reverse the declining stocks in the face of added challenges.
2 days ago
UCLA's Jaime Jaquez Jr. (24) shoots while defended by Gonzaga's Rasir Bolton (45) in the first half...
Associated Press

Gonzaga beats UCLA 79-76 in Sweet 16 on Strawther’s shot

Julian Strawther hit a 3-pointer with 6 seconds left to answer a 3-pointer by UCLA's Amari Bailey, lifting Gonzaga to a wild 79-76 NCAA Tournament win over UCLA Thursday night in the Sweet 16.
2 days ago
Associated Press

Officials: Safety device, human error derailed Wash. train

A safety device failed, knocking a train off the tracks last week, spilling diesel after leaving an oil refinery in Anacortes.
2 days ago
File - Credit cards as seen July 1, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. A low credit score can hurt your ability...
Associated Press

What the Fed rate increase means for your credit card bill

The Federal Reserve raised its key rate by another quarter point Wednesday, bringing it to the highest level in 15 years as part of an ongoing effort to ease inflation by making borrowing more expensive.
3 days ago
police lights distracted drivers shooting...
Associated Press

Authorities: Missing mom, daughter in Washington found dead

A missing Washington state woman and her daughter were found dead Wednesday, according to police.
3 days ago
Associated Press

Google’s artificially intelligent ‘Bard’ set for next stage

Google announced Tuesday it's allowing more people to interact with “ Bard,” the artificially intelligent chatbot the company is building to counter Microsoft's early lead in a pivotal battleground of technology.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.
SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Police, civil rights group in $336K accord over 2020 protest