Local News

Police arrest seven in Chapel Hill break-in, probe Occupy link

Posted November 13, 2011 8:42 p.m. EST
Updated November 14, 2011 11:28 a.m. EST

— Chapel Hill police arrested seven people Sunday after they say more than 70 attendees from an anarchist book fair broke in to an unoccupied building downtown to align themselves with the Occupy movement.

Police said that they were alerted to the break-in at the former Yates Motor Company building, at 419 W. Franklin St., on Saturday, and monitored the group overnight. Once the crowd had reached a more manageable size, a police tactical team moved in, taking seven people into custody.

Those arrested were taken to appear before a magistrate in Hillsborough on breaking and entering charges. No names have been released.

Hannah Shaw witnessed the arrests. She said it was terrifying. 

"Twenty police or so came in, ran in, no warning at all, and had their assault rifles pulled at us," she said. "(They) put a gun in my face and put guns in everybody's faces and screamed at us to get on the ground. We all got on the ground."

Justin Jacobs said police went too far.

"They pushed me down on the ground, forced me to lay on my stomach and rolled me over," he said. "A cop put his gun on my lower back and I asked him if he was going to shoot me."

According to police, some of the people involved in the break-in are known anarchists, who were thought to have used anarchist strategies such as barricading themselves in buildings, placing traps in buildings and destroying property.

Windows were obscured by large banners and people were acting as lookouts on the roof of Yates building, police said.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said the town is investigating what link, if any, exists between these protesters and Occupy Chapel Hill. He said the town has worked with Occupy participants to facilitate their rights to free speech and assembly.

In the case of the Yates building break-in, however, Kleinschmidt said the town has a responsibility to enforce the law and to protect the property on behalf of its owners.

"It is my expectation, looking forward, that Occupy Chapel Hill and the town will maintain an open and cooperative relationship," he said in a statement. "The Occupy movement carries an important message for our town, our state and our country. I suspect it will be heard more clearly from Peace and Justice Plaza than from the Orange County jail."