Chapel Hill support of police raid draws protest

Protesters marched to town hall as council members discussed manager's report Monday night

January 10, 2012 4:34:40 AM PST
Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil's official endorsement of police actions during a raid in November drew a loud protest from the Occupy Chapel Hill group Monday evening.

Protestors marched on Franklin Street and showed up at Monday night's town council meeting.

"There's no excuse for police violence," one protestor using a bullhorn told the crowd on Franklin Street.

The protest was planned over the weekend in response to Stancil's reaction to the actions police took when confronting a group of self-described anarchists who occupied the vacant Yates Motor Company building November 13.

Pictures from the raid showed officers wearing body armor and helmets brandishing assault rifles as they retook the building from protestors. In addition to the arrests of people inside the building, two local journalists reporting on the raid were also detained.

While critics have called the raid troublingly heavy handed, in his report, Stancil said that the actions of the Chapel Hill police department were the best decisions could be made given the information available at the time.

Stancil stopped short of condoning the detainment of the two reporters. He wrote that the police's objective was to remove the occupiers without injury which was accomplished.

The town released Stancil's report late Friday evening via email. In response, two community groups affiliated with the local anarchist movement, Croatan Earth First! and The Chapel Hill Prison Books Collective, organized Monday's protest ahead of Monday's Chapel Hill Town Council meeting where members met to review the town manager's report.

One protester, Maria Rowan, said she hoped for a level of outrage in the response from some of the town council members that matched that of the protesters.

"The town seems to be willing to give the police carte blanche to bring out military weaponry whenever they want," she said.

Protestors said the report legitimized police violence and demonstrates that the town government is "dangerously out of touch with the people of Chapel Hill."

But Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue disagreed.

"They removed people who illegally occupying the building, secured the property, and initiated the charges. I don't think people really understand how incredibly dangerous that situation is in the general public," he offered.

Stancil asked council members to refer his report to the Community Policing Advisory Committee to provide Blue with further recommendations.

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