Local News

Dozens of protesters march through Southpoint Mall, block traffic in Durham

Posted December 10, 2014 7:54 p.m. EST
Updated December 11, 2014 8:42 a.m. EST

— Dozens of protesters marched through The Streets at Southpoint mall in Durham Wednesday night before blocking traffic on Fayetteville Road.

In a video posted on Instagram, one person chanted "black lives matter" during a "die-in" inside Nordstrom, one of the mall's anchor stores. Another video showed protesters inside the store chanting, "We're going to keep showing up until everyone understands that every man is created equal."

Protesters began marching from the Cheesecake Factory, outside the mall's main building, before heading into Nordstrom. Afterwards, they marched through the mall, police said.

“It was a die-in for 4.5 minutes in remembrance of Michael Brown, and then it started to burst into a black lives matter because every life matters,” said Destini Riley, a protester. “So we just moved out into the streets and protested and we presented our First Amendment rights.”

About 100 people were involved in the protest, police said.

A woman named Cindy from Hillsborough, who did not give her last name, was at the mall with her 3-year-old grandson to see Santa. Standing in line, they were four children away from Santa when protesters entered the mall, forcing the line to close.

"That may be really small to some people, and I know it's just one visit and it's just to the mall, but to a 3-year-old...there are lives being touched on the other side as well," she said. "When you do an adult protest inside a mall, at Christmas time...it doesn't feel safe. I don't feel safe to take my children back to the mall."

Protesters then marched onto Fayetteville Road, where they blocked traffic between Herndon Road and Renaissance Parkway for about 40 minutes, police said. Authorities said several people were kneeling and lying in the roadway.

Durham police said 10 people were arrested. Their names and charges were not immediately released.

The department said a stun gun was recovered from one of the protesters and two people suffered minor injuries.

Wednesday's protest is the Triangle's latest in reaction to grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., not to indict two white police officers in separate incidents involving the deaths of two black men.

A Staten Island grand jury last week 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 cigarettes. A medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, noting that the chokehold was a contributing factor.

Violent protests erupted in Ferguson in November after a grand jury did not 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.

Multiple protests have since occurred in Durham and Raleigh, including hundreds marching through downtown Durham and blocking the Durham Freeway on Friday.

Two miles of the highway was closed for about 20 minutes as some people laid on the asphalt, some held hands to form a barrier across traffic lanes, and others approached police cars with their hands in the air. It was the second time protesters blocked traffic on the roadway.

Police made 31 arrests Friday night. Some were arrested at the Durham Performing Arts Center for disrupting people coming out of a show by comedian John Oliver.

Nineteen of the arrested protesters were from Durham. Others were from Chapel Hill, Apex, Raleigh, Hillsborough, Graham, Carrboro, Concord and Colorado Springs, Colorado. Charges included failure to disperse and impeding the flow of traffic. One person was also charged with resisting, delaying or obstructing officers.

Protests in Durham have been peaceful, but taxing on police.

"We are using the tactics that we know to keep our officers safe, to keep the protesters safe and also the community," Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said Friday. "This disruption is neither civil nor is it right."

Wednesday night’s protest followed a "die-in" at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine earlier in the day, where about 100 students held signs and chanted "black lives matter" before lying on the ground and pretending to be dead. The event was one of a number at medical schools across the country to mark International Human Rights Day.