Graham’s Disgrace

In the aftermath, as partisans spew their rationalization in response to partisans accusations, there will still be Graham, North Carolina. While there’s more than enough basis to reject riots and looting, this was about as peaceful as a protest gets. Indeed, was it even a protest, or merely Americans celebrating their rights? So naturally, they were pepper sprayed for it.

A racially diverse group of about 200 people walked with a police escort from Wayman’s Chapel AME Church to Court Square, where they held a rally encouraging people to vote. The event was organized by Rev. Greg Drumwright, a Burlington native who leads the the Citadel Church in Greensboro, according to his website.

At least three politicians participated in some parts of the event: the current mayor of Burlington, Ian Baltutis; Democratic candidate for county commissioner Dreama Caldwell; and Democratic school board candidate Seneca Rodgers.

What possible problem could any American have with encouraging their fellow citizens to exercise their civic right to vote?

Drumwright was among those arrested, along with many activists associated with the group People for Change, which has organized frequent demonstrations in Court Square this summer. Also arrested were Caldwell’s campaign manager and Alamance News reporter Tomas Murawski.

Tom Boney Jr., the publisher of the newspaper, said Murawksi was taking photos on the street when he was arrested.

Sure, nail a reporter while you’re at it. You’ve got children, elected officials, clergy, journalists. Did we miss anybody?

What in the world could these good people, these Americans, these friends, family and neighbors have done that was so bad, so detrimental to public health and safety, so venal as to justify any use of force against them, no less this level of force?

In a statement released Saturday evening, Graham police said Drumwright and the marchers hadn’t followed proper procedures for holding the event. The department said that it warned the group that it would not be allowed to close the road, said Lt. Daniel Sisk, a spokesman for the Graham police.

Sure, closing roads is a problem, even if not quite the same as beating random drivers or closing highways with thousands of drivers on them, or when it’s done by the Philly cops. So ask the marchers to keep to the side, divert them off the asphalt and on to the sidewalk. But pepper spray?

The department defended its use of pepper spraying, by saying, “[T]he assembly reached a level of conduct that led to the rally being deemed unsafe and unlawful by unified command.”

There was no violence. There was no rioting or looting. There was nothing but Americans marching in furtherance of the exercise of a constitutional right. On roads, perhaps, but that’s not a threat of force. Yet, the police “deemed” it “unsafe,” and so “unsafe” that they unleashed OC on their neighbors.

This is North Carolina, not a place known for its encouragement of the exercise of rights. And this outrageous use of force was rightfully condemned.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said on Twitter that he went to the courthouse in Graham after hearing about the day’s events. “All eligible voters in North Carolina have a constitutional right to cast their vote safely and securely, without threats or intimidation,” Stein wrote on Twitter. Through a spokeswoman, Stein declined to speak with The News & Observer Saturday night.

Gov. Roy Cooper also used Twitter to comment on the events in Graham. Like Stein, he declined an interview through a spokesman. “This incident is unacceptable,” Cooper wrote on Twitter. “Peaceful demonstrators should be able to have their voices heard and voter intimidation in any form cannot be tolerated.”

This was, without question, “unacceptable.” The problem is that it happened, and that post hoc condemnation, while better than nothing, doesn’t change the intimidation, harm and pain this action caused. That the Alamance County Sheriff engaged in this flagrant effort at voter intimidation can be punished, but cannot be undone.

7 thoughts on “Graham’s Disgrace

  1. John Barleycorn

    Hey now!!! The the Alamance County Sheriff’s headquarters are located on, I kid you not, Maple Street.

    And they have a mission statement:

    To serve, protect, and defend the citizens of Alamance County against all unlawful activities that may arise. We will operate within the laws of the State of North Carolina and the United States of America. We will ensure that justice will be our guide and the well being of our citizens our goal. We will serve with compassion and dignity and exhibit the best qualities of public service. We will ever be vigilant, ensuring that law enforcement will not be about race, status or power but about protecting our families and serving all citizens of Alamance County.

    And they are hiring…

    And Sheriff Terry Johnson is a handsome man:


    So you better check your privileged tone esteemed one, just because U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder dismissed the DOJ case concerning the alleged discriminatory policing and unconstitutional searches and seizures against the department back in 2014 doesn’t mean this ambitious Sheriff won’t finally get that U.S. Marshals Service gig he was lobbing for back in 2016.

    He is obliviously just working on his resume, you meanie!!!

    And it is hard get the boxes checked off via “justice as a guide” for law and order. So you got-s to take the opportunities when they arise!

      1. John Barleycorn

        I figured it would help you being a law and order, justice is your guide, type yourself.

        But alas the HR Department at the Sheriff ‘s Department didn’t even acknowledge I submitted my resume.

        No worries though, the Grahm PD headquarters are located on Maple Street as well, just a block down from the Sheriff’s Department.

        They don’t drive no pussy white with a blue strip squad cars either and only roll in the traditional black and white, all the way!!!

        P.S. To circle back to your one sentence reference letter, (I can not thank you enough for that BTW) any chance you can update that, and strike the “mostly” before “adequate”? I was damn near certain that including “mostly” before “adequate” was going to send the right signals.

        But the more I think about it, perhaps I need to up my game to solidly adequate to qualify?Especially seeing as how the mission statement of the Graham PD includes “high degree of effective and efficient public safety”.

  2. MollyG

    They say it was “unacceptable”, but since the AG and Gov will act to cause any consequences for those responsible, it shows that the AG and Gov do find this acceptable.

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