by Cedric ‘BIG CED’ Thornton, Black Enterprise News Service
Over the weekend, in Graham, North Carolina, a Black Lives Matter rally was broken up by police officers who then attacked the crowd of protesters using pepper spray, according to CNN.
The “I Am Change” march was intended to be a “march to the polls” in honor of the Black people who fell victim to racialized violence like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Trayvon Martin, according to an advertisement for the event. However, the Graham Police Department says people were pepper-sprayed in two instances. The first time occurred after marchers refused to move out of the road following a moment of silence, and then again after an officer was allegedly “assaulted” and the event was deemed “unsafe and unlawful by the police department.”
At a press conference, the march organizer, the Rev. Gregory Drumwright, said, “I and our organization, marchers, demonstrators and potential voters left here sunken, sad, traumatized, obstructed and distracted from our intention to lead people all the way to the polls.”
The Graham Police Department arrested eight people for resisting delay and obstruction, failure to disperse, and assault on a law enforcement officer. Scott Huffman, who is running for Congress, released a video clip describing the incident on his Twitter account.
The Alamance County Sheriff’s Office said that arrests were made at the demonstration, citing “violations of the permit” Drumwright obtained to hold the rally.
Mr. Drumwright chose not to abide by the agreed upon rules,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement Saturday. “As a result, after violations of the permit, along with disorderly conduct by participants leading to arrests, the protest was deemed an unlawful assembly and participants were asked to leave.”
The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the non-violent demonstrators, as part of a continuing voting rigjts battle with Alamance, North Carolina authorities.