Occupy Chapel Hill protests town's support of police raid
Posted January 9, 2012
Updated January 10, 2012
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Members of the Occupy Chapel Hill movement protested at a Town Council meeting Monday over the town's support of police officers who stormed into an illegal encampment on Franklin Street with guns drawn.
"The town government is dangerously out of touch with the people of Chapel Hill, responding to civil disobedience with potentially lethal force," Alex Berkman said at Monday night's meeting.
The protesters said police went too far, but Chapel Hill town manager Roger Stancil defended officers' actions.
In a report released Friday night and presented to the council Monday, Stancil contends that officers made the best decisions they could with the information they had at the time of the raid and that the actions of the Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) were consistent with training designed to keep officers and protesters safe.
Seven protesters were charged with breaking into the Yates Motor Co. building, at 419 W. Franklin St., on Nov. 13 and setting up camp overnight.
Two members of the media were also detained during the raid, but were later released.
Stancil's report did highlight the need for better communication when making tactical decisions that affect the community at large and to prevent situations in which media members get caught up in a crime scene.
Protesters want an independent review of the use of police force, but the council took no action on a petition to do that, instead referring the report to the Community Policing Advisory Committee for further review. The committee will report back to the council March 26.
"I was really outraged at the report," said Daniel Metzer. "These officers were armed to the teeth."
He asked the council for a "condemnation of the use of these terror tactics on people occupying a building."
Metzer conceded that those arrested were trespassing, but said that didn't justify bringing out automatic weapons.
"Many of my friends are among the arrestees and detainees," Metzer said. "They were not supposed to be there. Police should tell them, 'You are trespassing.' That's how trespassing laws work."