Organizers upset after MLK event visited by police

January 19, 2012 5:00:34 AM PST
People attending a celebration on the eve of Martin Luther King Junior's birthday claim actions by a Raleigh police officer were racist and violated their civil rights.

It happened at the Glorious Church just northeast of downtown Raleigh Saturday night. A group had rented the church but said they didn't know about an ongoing dispute with neighbors over loud music.

Neighbors told ABC11 the music often goes late into the night, and it's so loud it's a nuisance.

"My own kids have been awakened at night," said neighbor Mark Turner.

Just the night before Saturday's incident, church leaders and neighbors had met and begun working out their differences. So, when neighbors heard loud music the next night they called police.

"We had a great dialogue on Friday evening, and then 24 hours, later the music is back up the way it was before. And a lot of the neighbors were disappointed," said Turner.

Worshippers say they didn't know at first why police were there and say the officer was way out of line.

"He stormed in irate. He grabbed, he snapped his gun holster, He snapped his pepper spray," said worshipper Corey Wiley. "'People can't sleep. They're complaining.' He said that if he comes back out here he's going to arrest, write citations, write fines."

The celebration inside the church was to commemorate Martin Luther King's birthday.

The visit by officers prompted a blog from a South Carolina woman with Women-N-Power ministries that cries racism and human rights violations by police.

A Raleigh city councilman - who has tried to bring the church and neighbors together - said he has asked Raleigh's police chief to look into the allegations.

"I would like to have an explanation," said Eugene Weeks.

Weeks told ABC11 that he doesn't believe race is part of the dispute because he's tried to broker the compromise between neighbors and church leaders. But he said he wants to know if the allegations about the officer's actions are true.

"I want to know if they handled it right. If they did not handle it right what is the chief going to do about it," said Weeks.

Weeks said he is hopeful that the church and its neighbors can still work out a solution to the noise dispute because they all seem to agree that both sides have done wonders for cleaning up the neighborhood.

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