Few people knew Morrisville had a federal immigration services office before Samuel Oliver-Bruno was arrested Friday, including Police Chief Patrice Andrews and members of the Town Council.
Andrews gave a report to the council Tuesday night detailing the police department’s role in arresting 27 people who were protesting the detention of Oliver-Bruno outside the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office on Chapel Hill Road.
Morrisville police had no prior knowledge that Oliver-Bruno was reporting to the facility, and there was no coordination between her department and federal immigration officials leading to his arrest, she said. Officers were dispatched to the site after a 911 call came in shortly after 9 a.m. reporting a disturbance, she said.
Her officers found a growing crowd protesting and preventing a van carrying Oliver-Bruno from leaving the premises, she said. A short while later, Andrews joined her officers on site and began trying to defuse the protest, which she described as peaceful. She identified the leader of the protest to be Cleve May, a pastor at CityWell United Methodist Church in Durham and started talking to him, she said.
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Throughout the protest, Andrews said she was concerned that it would grow as word spread on social media. There were 50 to 60 protesters surrounding the van, she said. She determined most of them were from the church after talking with May. She wanted to bring the protest to an end as quickly and peacefully.
“I knew there was a possibility this could change,” she said. “There were threats by [protesters] of shutting down the streets in Morrisville. I knew time was not on our side. We were getting to the point where we going to have to issue warnings.”
She said May told her that the protesters would not give up trying to prevent the van from leaving. She then told May that warnings to disperse were going to be given to the protesters.
The first warned protesters they would be arrested for violating two state laws, and about half of them chose to step aside before the 10-minute time limit expired.
The second warned protesters they would be arrested for failing to disperse on command and for obstructing a public officer. They were given five minutes to comply. A few more left but 27 others did not, and they were arrested and taken to the Wake County Detention Center.
No injuries were reported as a result of the arrests, she said.
Andrews said she had received more than 200 phone calls from people reacting to the arrests.
“Some people are calling and voicing their displeasure with the actions of the police department,” she said.
She is returning many of the calls to explain how police responded to the situation.
Council members commended Andrews and her officers for handling the protest with professionalism.
Councilman Jerry Windle read an email from May that expressed his gratitude for the way Morrisville police conducted the arrests.
“In my view, they did their job with absolute distinction,” May said. “In particular, Chief Andrews was respectful and generous in her engagement with those of us who were arrested. She was so very clear about the basis of the actions that she would have to take sharing with us that the ICE officers did in fact have a warrant for Samuel signed by federal judge and that she did not have an option.”