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Activists In Alamance County And Graham Demand Police Reform, Removal Of Confederate Monument

Graham Protests
Jason deBruyn

Activists in Alamance County are calling for policy overhauls to prevent police brutality, especially against Black people. And another group of protesters want a Confederate monument removed from downtown Graham, the county seat.

The group "Alamance Agents for Change" co-wrote a letter to local leaders and law enforcement agencies with 13 demands, including transparency about officer misconduct and disciplinary histories, removal of personnel for membership in hate groups and a ban on the use of choke holds. They say 300 people have signed onto a petition for reforms since mid-June.

A leader in the group, Rion Thompson, spoke at a briefing Wednesday.

“This is a very diplomatic, civil approach to addressing law enforcement specifically and elected officials secondarily and we would like the respect of being taken seriously,” Thompson said.

The Police Departments in Graham, Burlington, Elon and Gibsonville have responded to the Agents for Change letter. The Alamance County Sheriff's office, declined to respond to WUNC’s request for comment.

Thompson said his group is not directly connected to the activists calling for the removal of a confederate monument at the county courthouse, but that both efforts are a response to the local manifestation of systemic racism.

“These demands are related to addressing white supremacy in law enforcement,” Thompson said. “And so, also is removing the Confederate statue. So they're related in the historical context.”

About 50 protesters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement gathered in downtown Graham Wednesday night, holding signs and chanting. Many passersby’s honked or flashed other signs of support. Others who drove by yelled profanity or made obscene gestures.

Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement have faced roadblocks from the Graham Police and Alamance County Sheriff when seeking to hold demonstrations.

Gina Cazares organized this protest and said she was willing to make some compromises if it meant she could peacefully voice her opinions and activate voters.

Protesters also want the Confederate monument in downtown Graham removed. Alamance County leaders have said they will fight to keep it in place.

The monument, depicting a Confederate soldier standing atop a large column, has stood in front of the Alamance County courthouse since May 16, 1914. According to the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, inside the concrete base of the monument is a copper box containing names of 1,100 Confederate soldiers in the Civil War from Alamance and the names of contributors to the monument’s fund. It also holds a number of confederate relics.

Jason deBruyn is the WUNC health reporter, a beat he took in 2020. He has been in the WUNC newsroom since 2016.
Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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