Finding the Blood on North Carolina’s Hands in Montgomery, Alabama

Finding the Blood on North Carolina’s Hands in Montgomery, Alabama

By Mandie Sellars, CJPC Board Member

It wasn’t until I saw the coffin-sized metal box above my head with the name Wake County on it that I froze. My body could no longer move, as tears streamed silently down my cheeks. The box bore three simple pieces of data: the name of the county I had lived in for much of my life, the name George Taylor, and the date he was mutilated, shot over 100 times, and hung from a tree by four white men: November 5, 1918. This act of terror happened right where I grew up, and I could no longer claim ignorance. My body was consumed by truth, with water on my cheeks and fire in my heart.

In April this year, the Equal Justice Initiative opened a ground-breaking memorial and museum in the heart of Alabama that I was lucky enough to visit recently.

EJI’s National Memorial for Truth and Justice makes America’s unspoken past of racial terror viscerally present. Body-sized metal boxes, engraved with the locations, dates, and names of those who were lynched stare you right in the face when you enter. You can reach out and trace your fingers over the letters. As you walk down through the memorial, they rise above your head, forcing you to reckon with their brutal, senseless murder. The victims are present in a way that is both dignified and chilling.

I saw the name of my state on box after box. The state I call home, where I raise my children, was also home to 123 documented lynchings and hundreds more that weren’t recorded. People of color were tortured and murdered in North Carolina for “allegedly stealing a ham” and “frightening a white girl.” A crowd of over 1,000 white North Carolinians cheered as a Black man was mutilated and hanged, posing with the body for photos.

In this memorial, EJI honors a past America doesn’t seem to want to remember. At their nearby Legacy Museum, the complete narrative of the kidnapping, terror, segregation, and overincarceration of people of color in America is made fully present. Personal stories and overwhelming data, historical accounts and interactive exhibits, all shine bright spotlights on the violence, brutality, and injustice that did and continues to happen.

In one exhibit, a man who is alive today reflects on his life: arrested at age 15, and spending the next 42 years picking cotton in a Louisiana penitentiary. He spoke of abusive guards, who only whistled their commands, rather than speak directly to those who were incarcerated. A stark reminder that modern-day slavery in our justice system is alive and well.

As a board member of the Carolina Justice Policy Center, I came back from this experience both deeply saddened and fully renewed in my desire to fight for those still being marginalized, abused, and killed by a broken justice system. Because many Americans, especially those in power, haven’t fully reckoned with the sins of our past, we perpetuate injustice today.

Real and lasting change will only come when more and more Americans fully face what was and is being done to people of color today. The work of advocacy and education must be done to light a fire for change in their hearts.

This work must be done tirelessly, carefully, and deliberately. Supporting one victim of police violence at a time. Sharing one story of a life destroyed by an unnecessary arrest. Attending one meeting and speaking truth to power. The work CJPC is, and hopefully will continue to do, with your support. It is nearly impossible to change a broken system if people don’t know or believe it needs fixing. Together we can, and we must, use our truth to light a fire for change – one heart and one mind at a time.

Raleigh Community Calls For Civilian Police Oversight Board

The Police Accountability Community Taskforce, or PACT, is calling for the creation of an official community police oversight board in Raleigh. The Carolina Justice Policy Center and an advocacy group called Save Our Sons are also working with PACT.

This move comes in response to Rashon McNeil’s encounter with police in December 2016. Although the police were looking for a person named Lamar, McNeil was tackled and arrested, sustaining minor injuries as a result. A judge later dismissed his charges of trespassing and resisting arrest.

In addition to calling for the creation of a police accountability group, advocates have filed a complaint to the Internal Affairs Division of the Raleigh Police Department, submitted a complaint to the Department of Justice, and requested a written apology. Read more here.

Wake County Judge Orders the Release of Law Enforcement Video in Police Beating Case

Judge A. Graham Shirley of Wake County has ordered certain video and audio recordings from the Wake County Sheriff department, Raleigh police department, and state troopers to be released. They are now available to be viewed by the public.

They are from the body and dashboard cameras of officers who responded to calls that a man was standing in the middle of North Raleigh Boulevard on April 3. These officers have been accused of beating Kyron Dwain Hinton, 29, with flashlights and a police dog. Hinton said that he had a broken eye socket and nose, 21 bite marks and cuts on his head after the incident.

Officer Cameron Broadwell of Wake County and NC Highway Patrol Troopers Michael Blake and Tabithia Davis have been indicted by a grand jury. The video and audio recordings are highly disturbing. Hinton has said that although he was upset at the time, he made no threats. Some of the officers’ attorneys have requested that the 9/11 calls and radio traffic between law enforcement also be made public. The Carolina Justice Policy Center continues to advocate for Mr. Hinton, and hopes that the incident will serve as a catalyst for greater police accountability. Learn more here.

Two State Troopers Indicted for Beating Wake Co. Man Fired

Two State Highway Patrol Troopers indicted for the brutal beating of Kyron Hinton have been fired. N.C. troopers Michael G. Blake and Tabithia L. Davis were terminated, resulting from an internal department investigation. Read more about the firings here.

The firing of these officers, in the face of what can only be characterized as an abuse of the public trust at the highest level, is a step towards the type of law enforcement accountability North Carolina citizens deserve. However, many more policy and procedural safeguards need to be put in place for law enforcement to be truly accountable to the pledges to protect.

Carolina Justice Policy Center is proud to stand with Save our Sons and Justice Service to help bridge the trust gap that exists between our law enforcement and our communities.

Wake County Judge Orders the Release of Law Enforcement Video in Police Beating Case

Judge A. Graham Shirley of Wake County has ordered certain video and audio recordings from the Wake County Sheriff department, Raleigh police department, and state troopers to be released. They are now available to be viewed by the public.

They are from the body and dashboard cameras of officers who responded to calls that a man was standing in the middle of North Raleigh Boulevard on April 3. These officers have been accused of beating Kyron Dwain Hinton, 29, with flashlights and a police dog. Hinton said that he had a broken eye socket and nose, 21 bite marks and cuts on his head after the incident.

Officer Cameron Broadwell of Wake County and NC Highway Patrol Troopers Michael Blake and Tabithia Davis have been indicted by a grand jury. The video and audio recordings are highly disturbing. Hinton has said that although he was upset at the time, he made no threats. Some of the officers’ attorneys have requested that the 9/11 calls and radio traffic between law enforcement also be made public. The Carolina Justice Policy Center continues to advocate for Mr. Hinton, and hopes that the incident will serve as a catalyst for greater police accountability. Learn more here.

Police Searches in Asheville to Face New Restrictions, Including Written Consent

The Asheville City Council has voted to make three changes to how police can search drivers or pedestrians. The most significant requires that police receive written permission before they search someone, unless they have “probable cause” to believe a crime has been committed. Additionally, the grounds for valid searches were restricted, and regulatory stops like traffic stops were de-emphasized.

While advocates hope that these changes will help curb stops on innocent drivers, law enforcement advocates caution that it could limit effectiveness of police in the midst of a drug epidemic. Advocates in favor of the changes also have pointed to data that clearly shows a racial disparity in traffic stops in Asheville. The changes come in the wake of a Black pedestrian being beaten by a police officer in Asheville, an event that has caused friction locally and garnered national attention. Learn more here.