Protesters remember victims, urge accountability for police violence
For the seventh consecutive year, area activists gathered in the shadow of the local courts and law enforcement agencies to protest violence by police officers against citizens and kick off a weekend of events.
The North Carolina chapter of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality organized the group of about 15 protesters who met in front of the Old County Courthouse at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 21. It is the tenth year groups across the country have recognized Oct. 22 as a day of protest against police brutality. On Saturday in conjunction with the Urban Literary Film Festival, members of the coalition spoke before a screening of the documentary Bullets in the Hood about a man killed by police in New York City.
Protest organizers urged the crowd to remember Gil Barber, who was killed by a Guilford County Sheriff’s deputy in 2001. The family has hired civil rights lawyer Al McSurely to represent them in a civil suit against the department and is working with the coalition to raise money and awareness.
‘“The only thing that really brings about change is bringing together people who are directly under the gun of police brutality with other everyday people,’” said protest organizer Scott Trent.
Tina Mercado attended the protest to commemorate her ex-boyfriend and sons’ father, who was shot by a Burlington police officer last year. She wore a sign with a picture of David Baker, who was shot four times by Officer Todd Saunders after he pulled Baker over for a traffic violation, Mercado said. Baker was completely deaf at the time of the shooting and could not follow the officer’s orders, she added.
Protesters moved from the first site to a corner outside the downtown jail, then to the office of the Sheriff’s Department and wrapped up in front of the Greensboro Police Station on Washington Street more than an hour later. Along the way they handed out flyers to interested bystanders and yelled, ‘“Smash the police state.’”
At the beginning of the march, soon after the Cakalak Thunder Drum Corps finished pounding out their second march, a security officer from the Old County Courthouse approached the protesters to tell them they needed a protest permit. Organizer Tim Hopkins argued with the officer that the group did not need a permit, but they left without incident a minute later to take their position outside the jail. At the next stop outside the Sheriff’s Department, Hopkins delivered a speech denouncing the initiative to build new county jail facilities and urged a fight against the police state. Although Barber’s father did not make it to the event, Mercado spoke for the families of those killed by police.
‘“He had prison tattoos, he was wearing a T-top and he was cursing,’” Mercado said. ‘“But he did not deserve to die. It has been very hard for his sons. Our whole world has been turned upside down.’”
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