A three-day peaceful protest over SB 168 intensified Thursday when protesters blocked off Capital Boulevard and Raleigh police arrested 20 people.
The protesters were charged with resisting a public officer and false imprisonment. At around 7 p.m., five protesters stood in the grassy median of Capital Boulevard with their hands bound together by zip-ties.
Earlier, some protesters had surrounded occupied Raleigh police cars, and one man had jumped on the hood of a passing car, forcing the driver to fight him off.
The protesters were on two groups. One blocked off Blount and Lane streets for much of Thursday afternoon, chanting and preaching through a megaphone about the police violence they believe the Senate bill will conceal. Others blocked off Capital Boulevard, many of them getting arrested.
Later, the groups converged on Capital Boulevard and marched back to the Governor’s Mansion.
Gov. Roy Cooper has called the bill “problematic,” but so far has declined to veto the measure, which would restrict access to records involving death investigations.
The NC House has since scheduled a hearing for 4 p.m. Monday to “repeal death investigation confidentiality.” On Friday morning, protesters gathered at the Governor’s Mansion for a fifth day announced this through a megaphone.
On Thursday around 5 p.m., protesters surrounded a Raleigh police car and a Honda.
Police were able to move them and both cars backed away. A short time later, protesters blocked another officer’s car on Jones Street, joining hands in a circle around it.
The officer opened the door and stepped out under their hands, walking away.
Around the same time, an unidentified man who had been at the protest much of Thursday jumped on the hood of Raleigh attorney Deborrah Newton’s car as it pulled to a Blount Street corner. Newton got out and began pulling the man’s legs as he clung to the hood, swinging at him until a second man tried to grab her from behind.
She was eventually able to drive away, and about 100 protesters marched from the scene.
Police stood by the attack on Newton’s car but did not intervene.
Newton told The News & Observer she was driving home from the grocery store, unaware of the protests, when a group stopped the car in front of her.
She honked her horn and got out to ask the police officers nearby if they could help. But when she reached them, some were standing still, another walked away from her and a third said, “We’ve got a situation.”
She said she looked and saw about 10 people on top of a Raleigh police SUV while officers were inside.
She went back to her car and the group let the car in front of her pass before a protester jumped on her hood.
“Everything I could grab, I grabbed,” she said. “I had his glasses and his hat, and I said, ”What are you going to do, come get them?”
At that point, she said, about eight officers arrived and told her to get off the sidewalk. A girl pushed her and she cut her foot but she was uninjured.
“I’m feisty,” she said. “Somebody in the back of my car was hitting it or throwing things at it, and I almost got out, but I figured I should get out of there.”
The following were charged with resisting a public officer: Nina Mae Brochin, 19; Angelena Maria Parker, 25; Autumn Jamie Parker, 22; Gabriel Elliot Cremmins, 22; Raul Antonio Figueroa-Benetti, 28; Michael Christian Miracco, 25; Kristin Anne Emery, 28; Travis Walker Harrington, 23; and Kacey Marie Barker, 21.
The following were charged with resisting an officer and false imprisonment, which means to restrain people against their will: Caleb Arbutus Buchbinder, 28; Natya Chen Regensburger, 21; Ian Alanices Imperial, 24; Omar Ahmed Bayoumi, 27; Sean Marlin McKinney, 34; Bradley Tyrone Demery, 30; Elizabeth Ann Williams, 21; Zoe Christina Schwandt, 25; Sarah Jesse Wolf, 41; and Mehrdad Ghahfarokhi Mojarrad, 62. Mojarrad the father of Soheil Mojarrad, shot and killed by Raleigh police in 2019.
Later Thursday evening as the sun began to set, protesters returned to the Governor’s Mansion. They chanted to the rhythm of a drum and then sat and listened to people tell their stories about their own encounters with the police.
Sade Gilbert said If she weren’t working, she’d probably be out protesting all day, every day. She wants to get Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin recalled, but said the main reason she was out there on Thursday was to show how she feels about SB 168.
“I’m against SB 168. I believe it obstructs the transparency between police brutality or police murders and the public,” she said. “If we had that transparency, we wouldn’t have that problem.”
“North Carolina should not vote for laws that muddy waters and increase police distrust, which is what this bill does,” she said.
Gilbert does not like how police have handled the protests.
“I think they’ve been overly violent. I think they’ve been arresting too many people,” she said. “I think Chief (Cassandra Deck-)Brown needs to step down.”
The morning after arrests
The scene was quieter Thursday morning. Drivers honked in support of the protesters, including city utility and solid waste trucks. Protesters laid sleeping bags on the sidewalk and snacked from wagons full of food.
“I hope everyone got a good night’s sleep on the ground,” said Braedon Welsh, who was arrested by Capitol Police on Wednesday, dragged into custody on trespassing charges.
Welsh spoke through a megaphone, asking if anyone needed breakfast or lunch, inquiring about dietary restrictions. Many of the college-age protesters sat under magnolia trees, studying.
“We had almost 80 people camp out last night,” Welsh said. “They all know the power of numbers. Look who’s not (messing) with us right now.”
Raleigh police arrested Welsh and 10 others Wednesday for impeding traffic when they stood in Blount Street with banners showing support for Soheil Mojarrad, who was killed by Raleigh police in a confrontation last year.
Police Thursday warned protesters twice not to step into the roadway, telling them to be safe or they would take “enforcement action.”
“If the governor is good-intentioned, if he believes that Black lives matter, then he would see why his constituents would be concerned with something like this,” said Lauren Howell, organizer with NC BORN. “They want us to feel like we’re powerless and they’re not listening to us. They’re clearly talking about it behind closed doors.”
Senate Bill 168
Also Thursday, the Triad Abolition Project of Winston-Salem circulated a petition calling for Cooper’s veto. By midday, it had collected 4,204 signatures out of its 5,000 goal.
The North Carolina legislature passed Senate Bill 168 nearly unanimously in the early hours of Friday morning. The bill was requested by the Department of Health and Human Services and includes technical revisions to DHHS-related laws, in addition to a provision that would further limit public access to death-investigation records.
As the temperature neared 90 degrees Thursday afternoon, a dozen of the protesters stood on the hot asphalt of Blount Street. For more than an hour, they chanted the names of people killed by police. As the sun bore down, one protester shaded her head with a cardboard Veto SB 168 sign. Four others held umbrellas.
“I know that you are tired of yelling,” Howell said, “but the people we are fighting for can’t speak for themselves. It’s sad this is what you have to do in America to get your government to witness you. This is the fourth day Gov. Cooper hasn’t said anything.”