Cops and Sheriffs Attack Peaceful “I Am Change” March in North Carolina in a Blatant and Violent Attempt to Suppress Black Voters



Editors’ Note: The following account is yet another instance of egregious voter suppression and intimidation, especially of Black and Latino people. This is a crucial part of Trump’s stealing the election and threatening violence, and has to be defied through all appropriate nonviolent means, contributing to and as part of driving out this fascist regime from power.

Early Saturday afternoon, a multi-racial group of about 200 people set out from Wayman’s Chapel AME Church in Graham, North Carolina,1 on the “I Am Change” march. Led by Rev. Gregory Drumwright (a social justice activist from nearby Greensboro), and with a number of small children as well as several Democratic politicians participating, their aim was to encourage voting and to condemn police murder. Their plan was to have a courthouse rally at which the niece of George Floyd, whose murder by Minneapolis police in May sparked a nationwide rising, would speak. Then they planned to proceed to the Graham polling station so people could vote.

But that plan was derailed by Graham police and Alamance sheriff’s deputies (some dressed in camo and carrying what appeared to be semiautomatic rifles). These armed thugs twice attacked the entirely peaceful march. As Drumwright explained later: “We never got to the polls because the sheriff’s office worked overtime to find a way to quell our efforts and suppress our voices.”

When the march got to the Confederate Monument at Courthouse Square, marchers held a silent vigil for George Floyd and other victims of police murder—for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time the murdering cop kept his knee on Floyd’s neck. The police later issued a statement outrageously claiming that this made the march “unsafe and unlawful.” The cops ordered the people out of the street, and quickly attacked with pepper spray. The crowd remained peaceful, regrouped, and continued to the courthouse—site of the planned rally—but cops declared that an “illegal assembly,” ordered people to disperse, and again attacked.

The Raleigh News and Observer reported that two sisters, aged 5 and 11, were both sickened by pepper spray and vomited. Their mom said, “My 11-year-old was terrified. She doesn’t want to come down to Graham anymore.” Veronica Holman’s 3-year-old grandnephew also threw up from the spray—Holman said that “They didn’t warn us or anything. We were just sitting on a wall.” A woman in a wheelchair was also affected.

Police arrested at least 12 people, including the organizer of the march, several other local activists, the campaign manager of a local politician, and a photographer for the Alamance News, who was videoed having his arm painfully twisted and yanked over his head. The arrested people were only released on condition that they agree not to return to Graham for 72 hours—in other words, until after the elections!

A poll worker told CNN later that “We thought there would be tons of people coming in after this event. We had extra people come on hand because the idea of this was that this gathering would end at the polls, but they broke it up over there at the courthouse before they ever got here.” Rev. Drumwright said, “There are people that did not vote today because the police released tear gas and pepper spray.”

Faith Cook, one of the few marchers who made it to the polls, said, “I’ve never experienced anything like that.… I think it was their intention, from the moment this march was announced, that we don’t get to the polls in numbers.”

After being released from jail, Rev. Drumwright issued a statement saying the attack “only emboldened us.”

1. Graham is a town of about 15,000, around 70 percent white, about 50 miles from Durham. [back]




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