Local News

Ferguson protesters voice frustrations across Triangle, block Durham Freeway

Posted November 25, 2014

— Across central North Carolina and around the country, people of various backgrounds and faiths gathered Tuesday night 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 blocked a major Triangle highway.

A group of about 20 Ferguson protesters briefly blocked the northbound lanes of the Durham Freeway at Mangum Street at about 6:30 p.m., bringing rush hour traffic to a stop.

The group chanted "no justice, no peace" while holding signs and banging a drum. One sign read "Cops are liars." Some of the protesters stood while others lay flat on the roadway.

A video posted on YouTube showed the protesters on the highway:

Rodrigo Dorfman, a Durham filmmaker who recorded the protests, saw the traffic disruption as a way to "interrupt the system."

"Anger takes over, but then again, marching is a sign of hopefulness not hopelessness," he said. "If people want to shut down a highway, that’s how they are expressing it. If they want to burn something down, that’s how they're expressing it. It’s a continuum."

The group then marched to Durham Police Department headquarters, where dozens of officers stood outside the building in riot gear. The group chanted at officers, but no clashes were reported.

Afterwards, the crowd convened in CCB Plaza in downtown Durham, where they were joined by about 300 people who first went to the Durham County jail "to talk to the incarcerated folks, to hold them in their hearts and tell them that they are there to support them," Dorfman said.

One person spray painted "Burn the prisons" on a wall outside the Durham jail.

At CCB Plaza, some vented their frustration through painting. Others shared poetry and music.

Toni Oliver, a N.C. Central University senior, said the event was a testament to Durham's character – but hopes the response isn't a fad.

"I hope people aren’t just excited about it today because (the grand jury decision) happened yesterday," she said.

Violent protests erupted in Ferguson Monday night after a grand jury chose not to indict Darren Wilson for the August shooting death of Michael Brown. Despite calls for calm from President Barack Obama, as well as from political and law enforcement leaders in Missouri, protesters in the St. Louis suburb set cars on fire and burned businesses to the ground. Police made dozens of arrests.

Obama described the violence as "criminal acts" and "destructive" during an immigration speech in Chicago Tuesday afternoon.

"The frustrations that we’ve seen are not just about a particular incident," he said. "They have deep roots in many communities of color who have a sense that our laws are not always being enforced uniformly or fairly. That may not be true everywhere, and it's certainly not true for the vast majority of law enforcement officials, but that's an impression that folks have and it's not just made up. It's rooted in realities that have existed in this country for a long time."

Mostly peaceful protests took place in cities across the country Tuesday, including some that disrupted traffic:

  • In Cleveland, dozens of protesters chanting “no prisons no cops, the violence must stop” stopped traffic on a highway. They also chanted “justice for Tamir,” referring to a 12-year-old boy who was recently shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer.
  • A large crowd blocked an entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City – some tried to march into the tunnel. Protesters also briefly shut down the Triborough and Brooklyn bridges, as well as blocked traffic in Times Square. One person was arrested for throwing fake blood on New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton.
  • Hundreds of protesters blocked Interstate 44 in downtown St. Louis.
  • Up to 2,000 protesters blocked streets in Seattle.

In Ferguson, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon ordered more National Guard troops to the city to help quell any violence Tuesday night, bringing the number of troops in the area to 2,200. A large number of troops stood in front of Ferguson Police Department headquarters, which leaders described as "ground zero" for protesters.

Demonstrators threw rocks at Ferguson City Hall Tuesday night and tried to tip over a police car, then set it on fire. Officers responded to the area and fired smoke bombs. More arrests were made.

In Raleigh, hundreds peacefuly gathered in Moore Square to pray and share their frustrations:

  • "I have 15-year-old and 10-year-old sons and I worry about them all the time," Erin Dayle-Byrd said. "Black men are an endangered species."
  • "It is tearing me apart to see our children being killed like that," Eddie Jacobs said. "I am tired of it."
  • "The only way I feel we can change is if we stick together and we produce actual ideas that create change," Lawrence Prickett said.
  • "We don't know where we're going, but we know where we have been," Tyesha Williams said. "We are tired of being killed for the color of our skin."
  • "We have to ban together and let them know we are no longer divided," Diana Powell said. "And it has to be more than a moment, it has to be a movement."

About 30 people gathered for a candlelight prayer vigil at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church.

in Chapel Hill, about 50 people gathered at the corner of Elliott Road and East Franklin Street and marched to the Orange County Courthouse near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The group shouted "hands up, don't shoot" and "no justice, no peace" while marching.


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  • Joseph Shepard Nov 26, 2014
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    There is within the African American community a segment which feels that they deserve a separate and distinct legal system geared to their particular historical, social, economic and cultural circumstances. One which takes into account their conditions and circumstances suffered under slavery, and which, according to that segment of people should grant them a degree of immunity from the standards of legal conformity expected of everyone else in America.

  • Sean Dowe Nov 26, 2014
    user avatar

    Standing in the highway to block your neighbors from going home is SO meaningful!

  • Sheila Moore Nov 26, 2014
    user avatar

    As for the protestors blocking the highway, sure hope there wasn't some worker late for a job, and fired, or some parent trying to get a child to medical treatment, or... oh, sorry, your right to be offended trumps everything, doesn't it?

  • Jeff Cates Nov 26, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Thank you for being a good mom and very well said. best comment on here!!

  • Chuck Harris Nov 26, 2014
    user avatar

    If they are in the road...whomever they are, run them over.

  • Curt Sherrill Nov 26, 2014
    user avatar

    I get why people are upset, and if they want to protest - that's fine, but blocking rush hour traffic on a major HW is not smart. What did they accomplish - besides ticking a bunch of people off?

  • Joseph Shepard Nov 26, 2014
    user avatar

    It is clear that what we are seeing is nothing short of an outright demand for the creation of a separate and distinct legal system, apart from that which most other people in this nation have to follow. The basis of this demand? The well worn and thread bare mantle of "victimization" caused and continued by the historical condition of slavery in this nation. This is the ultimate reason for the financial, educational, social and cultural dysfunction among a minority community. Noted here also is the complete lack of acknowledgement of group or individual responsibility for their condition. It is, according to them and their supporters, the sole consequence of the condition of slavery some 200 years ago. We have one single legal system in this nation--they have the choice of conforming to that systems requirements, or continue to subject themselves to the unwanted attention of law enforcement.

  • Alexia Proper Nov 26, 2014
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    This whole thread is great and I wish I could see the media publish articles interviewing folks in the community. I, too, have a family of different races. We have never experienced any kind of racial discrimination. I think it has a lot to do with education, speaking properly, dressing properly, and being respectful of others. Police do not just go around shooting good people. They just don't.

    I'm middle-aged or perhaps heading downhill now. Since I've been born, race has not been an issue in education. Raised in a poor home, I was taught values, studied, and went to college. Every American, and especially poor and minorities, have a chance to go to college, but many don't even get out of high school. Of those that do, far fewer aspire to do more.

    If "acting white" is defined by all these things that matter, I guess most in the black community have no hope.

  • sinenomine Nov 26, 2014

    There is a right to protest. There is also a right to move freely about the community on a public thoroughfare. At least be sufficiently honest to call the traffic impeding "protesters" the lawbreakers they are. They care about their own rights, that is all, but have no respect for the rights of others.

  • hourglas Nov 26, 2014

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    So true.