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Driver who had protesters jump on her car, block her path criticizes Raleigh police, protesters

Posted July 3, 2020 1:25 p.m. EDT
Updated July 4, 2020 10:39 a.m. EDT

— The driver who was stopped and unable to get out of her car during a protest Thursday evening on the way home from a grocery run said she is certain those who threatened her do not represent the Black Lives Matter movement.

“These were violent, young, mean kids,” Deb Newton said of her ordeal, which played out on Blount Street. “I was terrified about them being on top of my car like that and as aggressive as they were.”

Newton said she got out of her car to get protesters to move, and that police officers who watched the exchange offered little help.

“The criminal justice system is here, and officers are here to make sure that people do not take the law into their own hands," Newton said. "I was forced – coming from the grocery store – to defend myself. It was insane.”

She was among several drivers trapped in their cars when protesters surrounded them, blocking traffic.

“These people were not peaceful," Newton said. "In my experience, they were physically violent. And I don’t know what they were about. They were not the Black Lives Matter people, because I support them.

"I am one of the lawyers who took a knee at the courthouse in solidarity after the killing of George Floyd ... but let me tell you something: When you start acting violent, there is no excuse, and I don’t agree with law enforcement officers not protecting citizens when that happens. There is a line and that crosses the line.”

Newton had criticism for law enforcement officers as well, saying she had to take her personal safety into her own hands.

“It is not okay for officers to abdicate their responsibility," she said. “It’s not okay to stand down and watch people get assaulted like that.

Rick Armstrong, president of the Raleigh Police Protective Association, said police leadership has not clearly communicated enforcement expectations with officers on the ground.

“[Officers] have pretty much been told to give the protesters leeway and not make immediate arrests,” said Armstrong. “They probably should have engaged. They probably should have done something.”

Raleigh Police have only said they are investigating the incident and did not respond to a request for comment about whether officers were told to stand down.

“When I got out of my car, I just felt attacked," Newton said.

"I was focused on getting the guy off my car and leaving," she said. “I thought either I am getting arrested for this or they’re going to come help, finally, but it took a fist fight in the street. I do not want to be engaging in fist fights in the street just to drive home from the grocery store. That is insane.”

Police advise anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation to lock the car doors and call 911. Police are warning protesters who surround cars that they will be charged not only with impeding traffic but also false imprisonment.

Since Monday, groups have gathered outside the Executive Mansion, primarily to push for a veto of a bill they say would keep details of deaths in police custody or jails a secret. Senate Bill 168 which was passed a week ago as lawmakers rushed to adjourn their legislative session, mandates death investigation records remain confidential when they reach the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner instead of being publicly available. Cooper has not indicated whether he will sign the bill into law.

Those gatherings were largely calm Friday, and people remained on the sidewalk and were not blocking traffic.

At least 20 people were arrested Thursday night, after protests poured into the street and blocked traffic on Capital Boulevard outbound from downtown.

As Thursday afternoon turned to evening, a protest that was peaceful throughout the day quickly escalated when protesters began blocking roads and intersections, surrounding police cars and blocking people driving through downtown. Protesters eventually made their way to Capital Boulevard, where they made a human chain that blocked traffic.

On Thursday night, Raleigh police released mug shots of the 20 arrested. Most were charged with resisting a public officer. They include:

Protesters arrested for blocking traffic on Capital Boulevard

  • Natya Regensburger: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic and false imprisonment
  • Nina Brochin: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic
  • Omar Bayoumi: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic and false imprisonment
  • Raul Figueroa-Benetti: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic
  • Sarah Wolff: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic and false imprisonment
  • Sean McKinney: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic and false imprisonment
  • Travis Harrington: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic
  • Zoe Schwandt: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic and false imprisonment
  • Zoya Regensburger: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic and false imprisonment (two counts)
  • Angelena Parker: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic

Protesters arrested for blocking traffic on Capital Boulevard

  • Autumn Ficker: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic
  • Bradley Demery: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic
  • Caleb Buchbinder: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic and false imprisonment
  • Elizabeth Williams: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic and false imprisonment
  • Gabriel Cremmins: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic
  • Ian Imperial: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic and false imprisonment
  • Kacey Barker: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic
  • Kristin Emery: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic
  • Mehrdad Mojarrad: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic and false imprisonment
  • Michael Miracco: Resist, delay, obstruct; impeding the flow of traffic
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