On a day when members of African-American churches across the country wore black to protest fatal police shootings of unarmed black men, they were joined by members of four Triangle congregations who gathered in one of East Durham’s most troubled neighborhoods.
The group of about 75 people prayed, marched and blocked two intersections Sunday afternoon in a renewal of public protests against the killings. The event came less than a day after police arrested 11 people during a protest-related attempt to block the Durham Freeway in which police in riot gear confronted marchers.
The Rev. James Lemuel Spence, pastor of Word Empowerment Church, told Sunday’s marchers and listening residents that “the injustice has to end.”
“The system needs to be purged,” Spence said. “The system needs to hear from the church. Jesus died for one and all. We stand in solidarity outside the walls of the church.”
The marchers left Word Empowerment Church, 1107 Holloway St., near the intersection of North Hyde Park Avenue and Holloway, where they formed a circle that blocked traffic in four directions. Nathaniel Phillips, pastor of Hope Church International on Holloway Street, prayed for neighborhoods in the area that have been beset by crime and violence.
“Heal Holloway Street, heal Alston Avenue, heal Fayetteville Street, heal Roxboro Street, heal the city,” Smith prayed, reciting names of nearby streets.
The marchers proceeded to Alston Avenue, formed a circle and heard speeches and prayers, blocking the intersection from vehicular traffic.
5th Durham protest
Police arrived near the end of the 45-minute event. No arrests were made, and police tamped down a potential confrontation with two motorists who could not move through the intersection because of the people gathered there.
“Our children have read about Martin, they’ve read about Malcolm, they’ve read about Medgar; we have to show them a present-day voice,” Spence said. “Our children have to see a peaceful demonstration of what is right.”
Sunday’s was the fifth protest in Durham since a grand jury decided last month not to indict a white police officer in the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo. It followed another attempt Saturday night to block the Durham Freeway.
Saturday’s protesters, marching toward the city artery, were stopped by police who blocked their paths and made 11 arrests.
A woman who would not give her name said the group was adding its voices to a national movement. She mentioned Jesus Huerta, the Durham teen who police say fatally shot himself last year while handcuffed in the back of a patrol car.
The march began at Walltown Recreation Center on West Club Boulevard. Protesters marched behind a big black banner that said “All Police Are Darren Wilson,” the officer who shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in Missouri.
They chanted “Black lives matter!” and “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” as they made their way down Buchanan Boulevard, past Duke’s East Campus, and down Ninth and Main streets.
The group of about 60 started off in one lane of traffic but later spread out into both lanes, blocking cars. As they turned onto Swift Avenue, police in riot gear and holding sticks stood in front of parked patrol cars blocking the freeway entrance.
‘They just charged’
Police turned on a high-pitched alarm and ordered the crowd back. Almost immediately, they had several protesters on the ground.
“Literally within two seconds,” said Ley Killeya-Jones of Chapel Hill. “They just charged people in front. Literally we felt this whoosh!”
Killeya-Jones said she turned to put earplugs in her 12-year-old son’s Stefan’s ears when police began forcing people to the ground.
“It’s one thing to say you’re going to be arrested if you don’t turn around, (but) why do you have to bum rush people?” she asked.
Most of those arrested – nine men and two women – were charged with impeding traffic and failure to disperse.
Police kept the remaining protesters moving back toward Main and Ninth streets, walking quickly behind them and telling them to stay out of the street. Staff photographer Chuck Liddy contributed.