Wake County Schools

Clergy calls for mediation in Wake school board protests

Posted January 24, 2012

— A group of clergy is calling on the Wake County District Attorney's Office to reverse its decision to seek trials for protesters who disrupted school board meetings nearly two years ago.

Thirty people, including 10 students, were charged with trespassing after demonstrations in June and July 2010 against the school board, which at the time was in the process of changing the district's longtime student assignment policy.

On Tuesday, Rev. Earl Johnson, pastor of Martin Street Baptist Church and president of the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association, urged the district attorney, instead, to seek speedy mediation in the cases.

Johnson said that protesters had "every right" to stand against the board's actions and called the DA's decision not to pursue mediation "unjust and unfair" to "those who were merely exercising their constitutional right to protest."

"We believe that this decision for trials would not only tie up our judicial system, cost taxpayers thousands of dollars, put innocent men, women and children on trial, it would also create a national embarrassment for our state," he said.

District Attorney Colon Willoughby said Tuesday that he approached the school board and protesters last year about mediation but that he had trouble getting both sides to agree to it.

The board initially agreed to it, he said, but the protesters did not. By the time they agreed, the board had changed its mind, he said.

"I was pushing the rock up the hill, and I got weary of it," Willoughby said.

Earlier this month, the new board reconsidered it again, board attorney Ann Majestic said, but it decided not to revisit the idea and to let it play out in the justice system.

Johnson urged the school board to also reconsider.

"We are extremely troubled also by the board's Democratic majority decision to leave in place the board's decision not to offer mediation," he said. "We hope that they will have a change of heart and state publicly their opposition to trials for the protesters and seek to reverse their decision during the board's Feb. 7 meeting."

Willoughby said that there are options other than trials – such as deferred prosecution or dismissals – and that his office would be looking at those in each case.

During a break at a school board work session Tuesday afternoon, several board members said it is unlikely they will change their minds about mediation and will let the courts handle the cases.

"One of the reasons we took no action is that we have some confidence that the district attorney's office could do what was appropriate," board member Susan Evans said. "We were hoping he wouldn't take 30 people to trial, because we don't think that's in the best interest of the taxpayers."

Board member John Tedesco said it is also important note the board's offer for mediation was rejected once before.

"For them to come back and ask for mediation after the political landscape has changed, I think, is their effort to play political gamesmanship," he said. "I think, at this time, it's time for this board and this community to move past this. This is in the hands of the DA at this time."


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  • quaten Jan 25, 2012

    Just let it go - people. It's an issue of ego and cheese-moving. Unless the court is willing to take on the case of "Somebody took my chair(cheese) in my meeting". Come on. Common sense.

    We all know that the local school board will NEVER satisfy one specific local clergy(ego). By all appearances, nothing will satisfy that specific local clergy.

  • gunny462 Jan 25, 2012

    "Unfortunately, with Mr. Barber's apparent health and physical problems, it would be expensive to house him for any length of time. Give him 30 days of jail food. The resulting weight loss might be good for his health. beachboater"

    LOL thanks for the best laugh I've had all day!

  • beachboater Jan 25, 2012

    If the Reverend Doctor William Barber had been charged every time he broke the law, he would be under the three strikes law. He does need to be tried and if found guilty sentenced based on his past behavior. He might spend a little time behind bars.

    Unfortunately, with Mr. Barber's apparent health and physical problems, it would be expensive to house him for any length of time. Give him 30 days of jail food. The resulting weight loss might be good for his health.

  • wakemom Jan 25, 2012

    So, let's see how this might sound... a group of white people go into a meeting of the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association, disrupt the meeting, take seats that are reserved for others, try to manhandle the public address system to dominate speaking, are told to leave peacefully, are warned THREE times to cease and leave, and do not. Let's see.....I just wonder if Rev Barber would be seeking mediation (translated, giving the white persons who were charged with breaking the law, no penalty). If white people acted this way at a primarily black person's meeting, would we WANT these people to escape responsibility and fair justice? I sure as hell hope not. And, the same is true of those people who were charged for their misbehavior in this case. Double standards, on the basis of race, are racist.

    you make it sound like the black panther came up in there ready to fight. correct me if i am wrong, but were there not any white people in the group in support of rev barber?

  • randall0123a Jan 25, 2012

    “Do you honestly not comprehend the PR value of a trial? The publicity would be worth millions.”-fayncmike

    You talk as if this will be positive PR. I see it as negative PR. No need to argue, as there are always two sides of course. As far as I am concerned, expanding the public visibility to this will allow others to see how one-sided this group is, as well as self-righteous. So please, I hope this gets National visibility.

  • BigUNCFan Jan 25, 2012

    Yep what they did was illegal but 2 years is long enough for this to drag on. It was disruptive and rude but not worth spending what would be many thousands of dollars in time for the judge, balifs, and DA (all tax dollars the govt does not have) to try these miscreants for these minor infractions.

    Just give them a plea deal of some sort that probably involves fines or community service or probation. What good will it do other than vengance to have basically kids and rabble rousers get free three hots and a cot (more tax money wasted).

    Just use common sense and move on folks. Aren't there bigger issues to deal with.

    Also, trying to get some of these people extradited back here from other states or cities (most of them were from out of town and paid protesters) will cost money too. Just see $$$ being wasted everywhere on this nonsense.

  • wildcat Jan 25, 2012

    "It's too late for mediation. Now they should be praying that they have a jail cell big enough for the "Rev" Barber" - Disabled Vet

    Actually the problem is finding a cell big enough for Rev. Barber's ego.

    Good comment. Church and state as they say should not be mixing. Now people need to move on.

  • boneymaroney13 Jan 25, 2012

    These are not churches! They are Assemblies of Community Activists. Big differance. Plus, they should loose their tax exempt status.

  • onyourheels2 Jan 25, 2012

    i hope it goes to trial and all the defendants take the stand. i would love for the DA to be able to question all of these people in public, so there would be no doubt that the education system needs to be changed.

  • boneymaroney13 Jan 25, 2012

    Why are these "churches", if they really are churches, sticking their noses in the actions of criminals unless they support that activity?