Jail-condition protesters block traffic outside DPAC

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Demonstrators hope to draw awareness to jail concerns.

A Durham street was blocked off for more than two hours Friday night.

Demonstrators stood on Mangum Street and held up traffic. The group was protesting outside of the Durham County Detention Center, where they say inmates are being abused.

"I've had friends in a lot of different jails and prisons and pretty much always the conditions are reprehensible," said protester Michael Liquori.

Demonstrators were hoping to shut down the production of the "Lion King" on Friday night at the Durham Performing Arts Center. The center is across from the jail.

Protesters first stormed Mangum Street, then Pettigrew. Demonstrators were weaving around cars. Drivers were caught in the middle of a march.

Two people were escorted out of the DPAC. They were chanting as they were led away by officers.

All this was happening as patrons of DPAC watched on and saw a different kind of show.

"While everyone is over there smiling and grinning, people are over here (at the jail) starving, dying, being medically neglected," protester Cynthia Fox said.

There have been three deaths at the detention center.

Most recently, inmate Matthew McCain died on Jan. 19 while he was locked up. Protesters believe it was because he wasn't provided proper medical care.

RELATED: Ongoing in-custody death investigation

A spokesperson for the Durham County Sheriff's Office said the office supports the right to peaceful assembly.

"This evening our agency focused on the safety and security of about 40 demonstrators as well as the general public. For more than two hours, demonstrators were allowed to assemble without significant incident. There were no arrests or citations as the Sheriff's Office and the Durham Police Department closely monitored the protest," the spokesperson said.

The Durham County Sheriff's Office said investigators are conducting a comprehensive investigation that includes a timeline of events.

RELATED: Most recent jail inspection

"The Durham County Detention Facility is subject to unscheduled annual inspections to ensure the facility is in compliance with state and federal standards," the Durham Sheriff's Office said in a statement late Friday night. "The facility has yet to fail an inspection, and its staff continues to review policies and procedures to ensure a safe and secure incarceration for all detainees."

The Department of Public Health also recently came to the jail after sanitation concerns were raised. A citizen reported that inmates found worms in the kitchen area.

The Sheriff's Office said inspectors reported no significant irregularities.

There were no major incidents Friday night.

DPAC did take down the sign that read "Disney's The Lion King" off the marquee. Disney is the parent company of ABC11.

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