Local Politics

Protesters interrupt Durham City Council meeting

Posted December 18, 2014 7:55 p.m. EST
Updated December 19, 2014 10:55 a.m. EST

— Singing and chanting “black lives matter,” a group of protesters interrupted a Durham City Council meeting Thursday to vocalize their feelings about race relations and recent tensions between residents and law enforcement.

In addition to chanting, one of the protesters read aloud the names and short biographies of various black civil rights figures.

The protesters wanted city leaders to know they were all from Durham, and many said they take issue with the Durham Police Department's findings that some recent protests were organized by anarchist groups from Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

After speaking, the group immediately left the meeting. About an hour later, Mayor Bill Bell addressed what happened.

“We could have very easily have said, ‘Look, you are out of order. Police, let's move them out of here,’ but that is the type of confrontation some people wanted,” Bell said. “There's been talk about having a conversation. Well, the person you might want to have a conversation with, they came in, said what they wanted to say and left. Who are you going to have the conversation with?”

Some of the protesters had to appear in court almost immediately after the demonstration because they face charges brought against them after a Dec. 5 protest.

Bell said he fully supports people expressing themselves, but there are rules of conduct for protests in the city, and people must follow them.

The rules bar protesters from Durham Police Department property, including parking lots and grass around buildings. They also prohibit people from wearing masks, hoods or otherwise concealing their identities during a demonstration and from using fireworks or other pyrotechnics during a march.

Protests also must be held during daylight hours and only after organizers have obtained a city permit.