Police pepper-spray demonstrators during march to the polls in Alamance County

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Sunday, November 1, 2020
Police pepper-spray demonstrators during march in Alamance Co.
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Newsgathering partners at the News & Observer said about 200 racially-diverse people attended Saturday's march -- including a 5-year-old girl and other children.

GRAHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- A march to the polls on the final day of early voting in North Carolina came to an end in the City of Graham when police pepper-sprayed some participants and arrested at least eight others.

Graham city officials said the "I Am Change March to the Polls" event was organized by Rev. Gregory Drumwright. Drumwright is the minister of The Citadel Church in Greensboro, according to his personal website.

Newsgathering partners at the News & Observer said about 200 racially-diverse people attended Saturday's march -- including a 5-year-old girl and other children.

Video showed Alamance County deputies and City of Graham police officers slowly approaching demonstrators standing on podiums before pepper-spraying them. Scott Huffman, a candidate for U.S. Representative and participant of the event, said children and the elderly were sprayed and arrested during the confrontation.

Before the confrontation, city officials said authorities attempted to disperse the crowd due to it reaching a "level of conduct that led to the rally being deemed unsafe and unlawful by unified command."

According to police, prior to the incident, Drumwright was directed to the Graham City Council to petition for permission to have the road temporarily closed for the march. Authorities said Drumwright missed the deadline before a city council meeting on Oct. 13. City officials said Drumwright was then asked by the council to meet with city officials to plan a route for the march, none of which included blocking roadways due to how close it was to a polling location.

Video obtained courtesy of the Elon News Network.

RELATED: Voter intimidation is happening during early-voting but majority of reports are encouraging, NC NAACP says

Many local Democrats referred to the actions of both the Alamance County deputies and Graham police as a form of voter suppression and intimidation.

In response to the incident, North Carolina Attorney Josh Stein released a statement via Twitter saying in part, "All eligible voters in North Carolina have a constitutional right to cast their vote safely and securely, without threats or intimidation."

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper joined in saying, "This incident is unacceptable. Peaceful demonstrators should be able to have their voices heard and voter intimidation in any form cannot be tolerated."

In a statement, Wayne Goodwin, a chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, called the local authorities' actions an act of "voter suppression."

"The actions of these officers represent completely unwarranted police hostility and voter suppression," Goodwin wrote. "This group of North Carolinians was fully within their First Amendment rights to hold their protest and march to the polls."

Just before noon Sunday, Graham police held a news conference about the incident.


Rev. Drumwright held a news conference around 1 p.m. detailing the incident.