The Sheriff’s Office and Durham Police Department say there were no arrests after a group protesting recent deaths at the Durham County jail disrupted a performance of “The Lion King” Friday night.
“The Durham County Sheriff’s Office will continue to support the right to peaceful assembly,” according to a statement released Friday night by spokeswoman Tamara Giggs.
“This evening our agency focused on the safety and security of about 40 demonstrators as well as the general public,” the statement said. “For more than two hours, demonstrators were allowed to assemble without significant incident. There were no arrests or citations as the Sheriff's Office and the Durham Police Department closely monitored the protest.”
“There weren’t any arrests,” police spokesman Willie Glenn said via email Sunday. “I believe two were removed from a certain area. But no arrests.”
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The protest called by Inside-Outside Alliance highlighted the jail deaths of Raphael Bennett, Dennis McMurray and Matthew McCain. The group maintains these deaths did not have to happen, and has been calling for an independent, community-based investigation into the jail.
The group initially claimed two Duke Divinity students were arrested Friday night – they were only taken into custody – after they dropped a banner inside the Durham Performing Arts Center, located across the street from the jail. The banner read, “This Jail Kills: Enjoy the Show.” They also chanted “DPAC is profiting from cover-ups of the deaths in the Durham County Jail," as they dropped the banner from a second-floor railing, according to a statement from the group.
The group maintains that the Broadway hit that “will generate millions of dollars for the corporate leaders at Nederlander who run the DPAC, while they do nothing about the violence that is taking place just a few dozen feet from their doorstep.”
The Durham County Detention Facility undergoes unscheduled annual inspections to ensure it is meeting state and federal standards, the Sheriff’s Office said. The jail has yet to fail an inspection, and its staff continues to review policies and procedures to ensure a safe and secure incarceration for all detainees, the statement said.
“The Sheriff’s Office continues to conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation of the in-custody deaths of Raphael Bennett and Matthew McCain,” the statement continued.
McMurray died of an accidental drug overdose, according to an autopsy report.