Hundreds of people came out in the Triangle on Tuesday to protest the lack of charges against a white Ferguson, Mo., police officer for shooting to death an unarmed black teenager.
At vigils, marches and gatherings in Raleigh’s Moore Square and downtown Durham and on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill, demonstrators also called for changes that might prevent such fatal encounters. A group briefly stopped traffic on the northbound lanes of the Durham Freeway near Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Tuesday evening.
Protesters carried signs with messages such as “Stop the war on black America” and “It’s not OK to murder my brothers,” and chanted slogans like “No Justice, No Peace! No Racist Police!”
In The Pit at UNC, students took part in a “die-in,” lying down on the bricks for several minutes in a show of support for the dead teen, Michael Brown.
During a march in downtown Durham on Tuesday evening, Monica Watson carried a sign with a picture of her son, Montez Hambric, who was shot and killed during a confrontation with a Winston-Salem police officer in May.
“The first thing people do is talk about the bad of the person, but they still don’t deserve to get killed,” said Watson, 49, who lives in Durham. “I knew the good and bad of my son, but he didn’t deserve to get killed.”
Watson also said she hoped the protests would remain peaceful.
“Tearing up the town isn’t going to help anything,” she said. “Just cost taxpayers money.”
That sentiment was echoed in Raleigh, where about 200 people gathered in Moore Square for a protest that ended without trouble.
“You cannot accomplish anything by attacking one another and attacking property,” the Rev. Portia Rochelle, president of the Raleigh-Apex branch of the NAACP, told the crowd.
Still, protesters said they felt compelled to get out in the street in hopes that it would bring about some sort of change.
“We need to get out and make some noise,” said Shana Moore, 24, a law student at UNC who marched in Durham. “Nothing is going to change if we don’t make it. Someone needs to police the police.”
Earlier in the day in Durham, state NAACP officials condemned the handling of the Ferguson case. The Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, used the case to address nationwide issues, such as the disproportionate numbers of black men incarcerated, a white attitude that men of color are “genetically predisposed to criminality” and racial profiling by law enforcement authorities.
Barber said the NAACP is calling for “actions to produce reform and stop police abuse,” such as mandatory training for police on racial bias and use of force and police use of body cameras “to record every police-civilian encounter.”
He also called for better accountability on police use of military weapons, “greater oversight of police officers by creation of a national police commission” and “true citizen review boards in communities across this country.
“We can no longer allow funeral after funeral after funeral after funeral and killing after killing after killing after killing to go on,” Barber said, “and America not render a verdict on itself.”
Everywhere Tuesday, people made their own interpretations of the Ferguson case and took their own lessons from it.
Zilo Touré, a UNC graduate student in city and regional planning from Raleigh, stopped to thank two women in Peace and Justice Plaza in downtown Chapel Hill who held posters in remembrance of Michael Brown and others killed by police.
As a young black man, Touré said he has been judged because of his race, but said now is a time for reflection, not anger.
“You’ve got to remember, I’m here for a reason, and my presence here is more important than anything, because it pays respect to those who came before me, who put me in a position to go to higher institutions like these,” he said. “I want to pay respect back by educating myself and becoming more of a scholar and more of a humanitarian. That way we can begin to think positively about how we advance together.” Staff writers Thomasi McDonald and Tammy Grubb contributed to this report.