'Black Students Matter': Wake County teens march in downtown Raleigh to pull police from schools

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- They stopped traffic on Salisbury Street Friday night. Most of the demonstrators were teenagers; Wake County high school students who chanted and marched in peaceful protest against the racial injustice they say they've see in their own young lives.

"We need to emphasize that Black students matter," one young speaker told the crowd gathered in the intersection of Salisbury and Hillsborough Street, in the shadow of the pedestal where the state's tallest Confederate monument stood up until a few days ago.

"Black Students Matter" was the theme of this rally organized by the Wake County Black Student Coalition, as its members and supporters took their turn in this American awakening to systemic racism.

Sixteen-year-old, Camille sat in the middle of Hillsborough Street fully-engrossed in the rally. She's among the hundreds of Wake students of color calling on the school system to cancel its contract with Raleigh police and the Wake Sheriff's Office that tasks officers and deputies to patrol county schools as resource officers.

"It's really not a safe space when the cops are breathing down your neck. Because you feel your every move is being watched," Camille said.

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The crowd at the rally applauded and cheered in agreement when one young speaker told them, "Not a single SRO has stopped a single school shooting."

Supporters say the SRO's are critical for the safety of students and staff. Critics say they disproportionately target students of color and criminalize the school environment.

In January 2017, a video went viral showing a Rolesville High School student slammed to the ground by an officer. Holder said she saw a similar incident at school at Athens Drive High.

"I saw (the SRO) body slam somebody. They weren't even doing anything and they were a lot smaller. It was terrifying," Camille said.

Camille's mother, Kimberly Holder, said the prospect of more armed uniformed officers at school scared her. "I let Wake County schools know, not too long ago, that we have more resource officers in these schools then nurses. The nurses have to float from school to school. That's a problem," she said.

Despite the calls from activists, the Wake County School Board voted last week to keep police in schools -- questioning the wisdom of terminating SRO's without an alternative plan in place.

School system leaders are pledging to collect extensive community feedback before approving next year's SRO agreement.
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