Raleigh residents protest, demand police accountability

Joel Brown Image
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Raleigh residents call for action on police accountability
Raleigh residents call on the city council for action on police accountability.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Tuesday night marked the third time since her son was killed in a deadly encounter with Raleigh Police that Akiel Denkins' mother, Rolanda Byrd, addressed Raleigh City Council.

She came with a set of demands about police accountability. Byrd and a group of local activists told the council they're tired of waiting.

It began as a soft-spoken address to city councilors from this still-grieving Raleigh mom.

"I am the mother of Akiel Denkins," Byrd said at the beginning of her allotted three minutes. "He was killed February the 29th, 2016, by a Raleigh police officer."

But the volume turned up when Byrd's supporters joined in. They held mock grave markers emblazoned with names of other black men killed in fatal police encounters.

Akiel Denkins
Family photo

Then they demanded action from city leaders.

"We are here to demand that the people we put into office break their silence and take action for black lives," Byrd and her supporters said in unison.

Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane was able to address some of the concerns, announcing a series of citywide discussions on police-community relations, implicit bias training for officers, and a pilot program for RPD body cameras that is set to begin next year.

But Byrd and demonstrators said that wasn't enough.

"No justice, no peace! No racist police," they loudly chanted inside the meeting.

City Council briefly halted the meeting as demonstrators made their displeasure clear as they exited council chambers.

The protest continued down the steps of City Hall and then outside the building.

"We know something has to change. We know that something needs to be done and those that have the power to make change need to go to ahead and do that," said Crystal Bodie Smith, a community advocate with the Capital City Hope Foundation.

The Police Accountability Community Task Force, or PACT, a community group of activists and concerned citizens, have been lobbying for months for some of the announced measures.

"I think it's a good first step," said PACT spokesperson Akiba Byrd.

But PACT said the city has now locked the group out of the discussion process. It said the measures announced by Mayor McFarlane came as a surprise.

"They have shut down dialogue with us, though. So we had no idea that this presentation was going to be made tonight," Akiba Byrd said. "So we have no way of holding them accountable. And, that's the point."

PACT's other big demand is the creation of an independent police review board.

The mayor did not address that in her remarks at the meeting. No dates or times have been announced for those city-wide discussions on police-community relations.

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