Alleged ban against gang member overturned by city manager

by Jordan Green

Wesley Williams, an employee of the Patriot Services temporary services staffing agency, was taking a break from moving tires, wrestling mats and stage pieces at the Greensboro Coliseum, on a recent Tuesday afternoon. He and some coworkers were sitting on a loading dock when he noticed what looked like an unmarked police vehicle in the parking lot.

Williams, also known as Bam, is an avowed member of the North Carolina Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation. Law enforcement agents, including the Greensboro Police Department’s gang enforcement unit, consider the Latin Kings to be a gang.

Jorge Cornell, leader of the North Carolina Latin Kings, said that Officer Roman Watkins of the gang enforcement unit spoke with coliseum supervisor Bill Johnson on Dec. 15 and questioned him about Williams’ work performance. Cornell said Watkins was “asking if he’s a troublemaker, what kind of worker he is, telling them that he has to worry about other rival gangs creating a situation, just amping it up.”

At the end of the work day, Williams stopped by the offices of Patriot Services to pick up his paycheck and was told that the agency would no longer need his services. Much of Patriot Services’ contract work is with the city of Greensboro.

Hector Garcia, the branch manager at Patriot Services, confirmed on Monday that his staff had been informed by representatives of the police department that Williams was banned from city property and could no longer work at the coliseum.

In a formal complaint filed on Monday with the Greensboro Human Relations Department, Williams indicates that he returned to the coliseum to apologize to Johnson for the police’s presence at the coliseum as it related to him. As Human Relations Administrator Yamile Walker described it, “Mr. Williams stated that he and Mr. Johnson spoke for various minutes and that Mr. Johnson complimented him on coming to him to apologize as well as expressed that he had been very impressed with Mr. Williams quality of work.”

Coliseum staff referred all questions about the incident to the police department.

Three days later, the city manager’s office, made the determination that, in fact, Williams is allowed to work on city property. Williams said he never received documentation of the alleged ban, and calls to the police department on Monday went unreturned. To the extent that there might have been a ban imposed by the police department, it was overruled by the city manager’s office by Deputy City Manager Bob Morgan on Dec. 18. City Manager Rashad Young left the city that day to attend a family funeral.

“The city manager’s office made the decision on Friday that, yes, Mr. Williams is allowed to work on city property,” said Walker, the human relations administrator. “The city does not ban individuals in the absence of a legal decision. Patriot Services has been informed of that decision.”

The incident has mobilized the Pulpit Forum, a group of African-American pastors who advocate for just and equitable treatment of people of color in the city of Greensboro. The Rev. Cardes Brown, the president of the Greensboro NAACP, and three other pastors from the group met with at-large City Councilman Robbie Perkins to discuss the incident.

“I don’t want to undermine the police department, but I’m not going to discount when citizens come with a concern like this,” Perkins said.

The Rev. Nelson Johnson of the Pulpit Forum described the incident as part of a pattern of provocation by the gang enforcement unit towards the Latin Kings in a report.

“It is painful and regrettable but very understandable that, in light of this latest incident of what appears to be an intentional act of provocation, intimidation and unethical (if not criminal) behavior by police officers that impoverished young people in general — and the ALKQN in particular — are increasingly hostile not just toward the gang unit, but also the police in general.”

Cornell said that although the alleged ban was overturned, as of Monday Williams had not received any new assignments by Patriot Services.

Within days of the gang enforcement unit’s visit to the coliseum, the Latin Kings allege that an officer with the squad visited Taco Bell, where another member is employed. The group is concerned that the gang unit is trying to get its members fired from their jobs. The member employed at Taco Bell filed a separate complaint with the human relations department on Monday.

“When your kids and your wife is looking at you like you can’t provide it makes you feel like you’re not a man,” Cornell said. “You start thinking what you should never think — that maybe I should go out and commit a criminal act so that you can put food on the table and keep a roof over your family’s head. The survival instinct kicks in. You gotta go out there and do what you gotta do. They’re trying to make us into animals. That’s how they treat us — like we’re animals.”

LatinKings Wesley Williams (left) and Jorge Cornell visited the MelvinMunicipal Office Building on Monday to file a complaint against theGPD. (photo by Jordan Green).