Fifty-four people, including N.C. NAACP leader the Rev. William Barber II and Durham City Councilwoman Jillian Johnson, were arrested Tuesday night and charged with impeding traffic during a rally and march calling for a $15 national minimum wage.
The rally was part of the Fight for $15 effort, which began in November 2012 when 200 fast-food workers walked off their jobs across New York City demanding $15 an hour wages and the right to unionize without retaliation.
Four years later, the movement includes fast-food, home-care, child-care, retail and other workers in hundreds of communities.
Tuesday was a national day of action. In Durham, organizers held a rally and march at their office near the intersection of Roxboro Street and East Club Boulevard around 6 p.m.
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More than 50 people, including Johnson and Barber, marched down and blocked the northbound lane of Roxboro Street, Johnson said.
“We sat down in the road for a period, and then we stood in the road for a while,” Johnson said.
It took about an hour for police to clear the street. Most of the protesters were taken to the Durham County jail via a bus. They were processed and released.
Protestors were charged with impeding traffic, a second-degree misdemeanor. A Jan. 5 court date was set, Johnson said.
The officers were very friendly and courteous, said Johnson, who was also arrested at a Moral Monday event in 2013.
“My only concern was that they were in riot gear,” Johnson said.
Johnson said she asked City Manager Tom Bonfield to explain why officers wore riot gear at an NAACP demonstration, when the organization has a stated commitment to nonviolence.
“They were not in riot gear,” said Kammie Michael, a spokeswoman for the Durham Police Department. “They were wearing vests and helmets.”