Prominent civil rights lawyer takes on case of Graham get-out-the-vote clash
Posted December 2, 2020 6:06 p.m. EST
Updated December 3, 2020 5:55 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — A nationally known civil rights lawyer has taken up the cause of people arrested in a march to the polls in Graham before the election that ended with police pepper spraying the crowd.
Ben Crump, a Lumberton native who also represents the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who were both killed by police, called for charges to be dropped against the marchers.
Organizer Rev. Greg Drumwright said the crowd was peacefully attempting to get out the vote on Oct. 31 when Alamance County deputies and Graham police officers pepper-sprayed the crowd and made arrests.
Officers said the crowd was told to disperse and would not, making the situation unsafe and unlawful.
The marchers have filed a federal lawsuit over the incident, claiming voter intimidation by law enforcement.
“It won’t work, sheriff. The more you try to suppress their voices, the louder their voices will get," Crump said at a Thursday news conference outside the State Capitol.
"This is a constitutional issue. This is voter suppression," he said. "The efforts of voter suppression continue in this Tar Heel State.”
Crump attended a court hearing for Drumwright in Alamance County on Wednesday.
"I am out on bond, but I am still not free,” Drumwright said.
Drumwright said at the news conference that he wants state leaders whom the marchers supported at the ballot box to return the support.
“Governor, this is happening in your state. This is happening to your constituents," he said. "Attorney General Josh Stein, there are people that are traumatized and injured from those events that have happened within the last 30 days since the polls have closed. You won your election, now you need to listen to the people.”
Drumwright said calls to meet with Gov. Roy Cooper have not been returned. The Attorney General's Office said Stein has been in contact with Drumwright and others. The group also met with some state lawmakers on Thursday.
Cooper tweeted about the incident when it happened, calling it unacceptable and said voter intimidation cannot be tolerated. Stein also posted online about it, noting that he visited Alamance County himself to investigate.
Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said Thursday that the Graham incident was "unacceptable and should not have happened."
"Our office continues to monitor developments in the legal process but has not participated in a meeting at this time," Porter said in an email.
Crump says he needs the governor, attorney general and other officials to show up – and he made a promise if they don't.
"The crowds will get larger; more attention will be brought," he said.
Another march is planned for Sunday.