Reps. Price, Butterfield, & Adams Condemn Violent Police Response to Demonstrators in Alamance County, Demand United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Investigation

November 2, 2020
Press Release

Chapel Hill, NC (November 2, 2020) – Democratic Members of the North Carolina congressional delegation, Congressman David Price (NC-04), Congressman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01), and Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12) released the following statements regarding the forceful dispersal of peaceful marchers by law enforcement in Alamance County during a march to the polls on Saturday, October 31, 2020:

 

“Voter intimidation of any form cannot be tolerated,” said Congressman Price. “The very fabric of our democracy depends on upholding constitutional rights to peacefully assemble and to vote.  The aggressive response to this weekend’s march involved law enforcement officers pepper spraying peaceful marchers headed to the polls, including elderly people, children, and even a person in a wheelchair.  These disturbing actions—which could amount to deliberate voter suppression—must be thoroughly investigated by DOJ.”

 

“The reports and videos showing the aggressive actions taken by law enforcement during the “I am Change” march to the polls in Alamance county on Saturday are extremely disturbing. The Constitution’s clear protections of peaceful assembly and the right to vote demand a full accounting of any and all violations of these fundamental rights. There should be no delay in a thorough investigation by the DOJ of the actions taken by the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office and the City of Graham Police Department. Voter intimidation by anyone will not be tolerated. The voice of the people will not be silenced,” said Congressman Butterfield.

 

“What took place in Alamance County on Saturday is one of the ugliest instances of voter intimidation and voter suppression I have ever seen,” said Congresswoman Adams. “Chemical agents should never be used on people exercising their First Amendment rights and they should never be used on people going to vote. Moreover, chemical agents should never be used during a pandemic, and they should never be used on children or the elderly. Everything about what the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office did was deeply wrong and merits a full investigation. Everyone involved should be held accountable, all the way up to the Sheriff.”

“Finally, it couldn’t be more clear that Congress and the North Carolina General Assembly need to ban the indiscriminate use of chemical agents now,” said Congresswoman Adams.

 

Representatives Price, Butterfield, and Adams sent a letter to United States Attorney General William Barr to demand an immediate investigation into the actions of the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office and the City of Graham Police Department.

 

A copy of the letter is copied below and can be accessed here.

 

 

November 2, 2020


The Honorable William P. Barr
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Barr:

 

We are writing to urge the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section to immediately open an investigation into the events that took place in Graham, North Carolina on October 31, 2020, when a group of peaceful demonstrators marching to the polls was forcefully, and without provocation, dispersed by law enforcement officers. Specifically, we urge an investigation into the actions taken by the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) and the City of Graham Police Department.

 

According to reports, a diverse group of around 200 people were participating in a peaceful march to the polls for the last day of early voting in North Carolina. Based on numerous accounts, including videos from multiple individuals at the scene, Alamance County sheriff's deputies and City of Graham police officers dispersed demonstrators with pepper spray and made several arrests after a moment of silence in remembrance of George Floyd. Several children, seniors, and even an individual in a wheelchair were sprayed, and the police arrested a journalist covering the unfolding events.[1]

 

This aggressive response to a peaceful and lawfully permitted assembly is unacceptable in any circumstance, but even more so as these marchers were on their way to cast their ballots on the last day of early voting. It has become clear that some potential voters were unable to cast their ballot due to the actions of law enforcement officers.

 

We believe the disturbing conduct exhibited by local law enforcement could amount to deliberate voter intimidation and suppression – breaching federal laws that protect an individual’s right to vote. Because the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section enforces the federal criminal statutes that prohibit voter intimidation and voter suppression, we urge you to swiftly order a thorough investigation into this incident and the actions taken by Alamance County and City of Graham law enforcement officers.

 

This event took place in a county with a history of racial violence, a history the protesters were recounting. Eight years ago, Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson was subject to a DOJ civil rights lawsuit alleging that his department systematically targeted and racially profiled the county’s Latino residents.[2] Ultimately, the DOJ reached a settlement with the ACSO that forced them to “undertake a new Bias-Free Initiative to demonstrate its ongoing commitment to bias-free policing.”[3] Given the ACSO’s disturbing history of civil rights complaints, we believe an immediate investigation is warranted into their actions over the weekend.

 

Federal oversight is critical to ensuring that every voter can safely and securely access the ballot box, and that voter suppression is never tolerated. We call on the DOJ to swiftly conduct a thorough investigation of the ACSO and City of Graham Police Department’s actions on October 31, 2020. We look forward to your prompt response.

 

Sincerely,

 

__________________                _____________________              _____________________

DAVID E. PRICE                        G. K. BUTTERFIELD               ALMA S. ADAMS, Ph.D.

Member of Congress                      Member of Congress                     Member of Congress

 

 

 

1 Eanes, Z., & Brosseau, C. (2020, October 31). March to Alamance polls ends with police using pepper-spray on protesters, children. Retrieved November 01, 2020, from https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article246861942.html

 

2 Justice Department Releases Investigative Findings on the Alamance County, N.C., Sheriff's Office. (2014, October 09). Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-releases-investigative-findings-alamance-county-nc-sheriff-s-office

 

3 Pauroso, Paige. (2016, August 19). DOJ drops lawsuit against Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson. Retrieved November 01, 2020, from https://www.elonnewsnetwork.com/article/2016/08/doj-drops-lawsuit-against-alamance-county-sheriff-terry-johnson