Another grand jury decision incites more protests across Triangle, nation
Posted December 4, 2014
Durham, N.C. — Frustration and concern echoed once again in the Triangle and across the country Thursday night as demonstrators protested another grand jury decision in an officer-involved death – less than two weeks after doing the same for a similar case.
This time, crowds in Durham and Raleigh were smaller and did not disrupt traffic.
A Staten Island, N.Y. grand jury on Wednesday found “no reasonable cause” to indict New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner. In July, Pantaleo used an apparent chokehold to subdue Garner, who was being arrested for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. A medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, noting that the chokehold was a contributing factor.
The grand jury decision resulted in demonstrations throughout the country Wednesday and Thursday night, including thousands blocking the West Side Highway, a major New York City roadway. Hundreds converged at the entrance to the Staten island Ferry, where lines of officers stopped protesters from entering the terminal, and protesters blocked streets at random across the city.
NYC police, anticipating where else protesters could go, also had a heavy presence at the Lincoln Tunnel and closed the Brooklyn Bridge to vehicle and foot traffic.
In Durham, things were not chaotic.
About 100 people chanted “Black lives matter” while gathered at CCB Plaza in downtown Durham.
Protest organizer Nia Wilson said the grand jury decision is the latest example of ‘systemic racism.’
"They may not be lost because they lost their breath, but folks can't get jobs, folks can't go to school, people can't get jobs because of the way we're being policed in this country,” she said.
Others at the protest shared similar thoughts.
"I think we have police forces all over the country that are out of control, that have been given carte blanche, that have been given militarized equipment,” Josh Jones said.
At Moore Square in Raleigh, Molly Eness and her children were among about 100 demonstrators present.
“I brought my kids because I want them to stand up when something is wrong,” she said. “That’s just about it. I think we had to be here.”
Protesters marched peacefully – while escorted by Raleigh police – from Moore Square to the federal courthouse on New Bern Avenue.
Similar gatherings were also held Thursday at N.C. Central University and Duke University, where students laid on the ground as part of a ‘die in.’
Wednesday’s decision is the second high-profile case in recent weeks where a grand jury declined to indict a white police officer in the death of a black person, further straining the relationship between law enforcement and African-American communities.
Hundreds gathered in Durham and Raleigh on Nov. 25 in response to a grand jury’s decision not to indict a Ferguson, Mo. police officer in the shooting death of an 18-year-old man – including a crowd that stopped traffic on a major Triangle highway during the evening rush hour.
In Durham, one group briefly blocked northbound lanes of the Durham Freeway at Mangum Street before marching to Durham Police Department headquarters and chanting at officers, who stood in riot gear outside the building. Another group went to the Durham County jail to voice their support for those incarcerated inside. Both groups then convened in CCB Plaza where their frustrations were vented through painting, poetry and music.
Hundreds gathered in Moore Square to pray and share their frustrations, including some who voiced concern for the safety of African-American men and others pushing for more organized efforts. A candlelight prayer vigil was also held at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church.
Every Triangle protest has been peaceful and no arrests were reported.