Police, march organizers differ on what happened in Graham

Monday, November 2, 2020
Police explain why actions were taken to end Graham protest march
Police explain why actions were taken to end Graham protest march. The organizer vows to come back bigger and better with an event on Election Day.

GRAHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Graham Police said Sunday that organizers were made aware that marchers were not allowed to crowd the streets and disrupt traffic and parking in downtown when they arrived at the historic old courthouse on Saturday.

The Rev. Greg Drumwright organized the rally. He claimed that when police used pepper spray to disperse the crowd, they intimidated potential people at the march who planned to early vote afterward - the final day of early voting.

"There were people that were held back from being able to lead our march and proceed down to the polls," Drumwright said. "So, we want to be clear about this one fact -- why was there a need for our peaceful gatherers, marchers, organizers and potential voters, why was there a need? What did we do?"

But Lt. Daniel Sisk with Graham Police said organizers knew there was a designated space at Sesquicentennial Park to accommodate overflow for the large gathering at the courthouse.

On Sunday night, Graham Police released email exchanges between their agency and Drumwright. The documents state that rally participants must use the sidewalk to march to the polls after the event.

RELATED: Graham Police release timeline of communications with march organizer (.pdf)

Police also warn Drumwright in writing that the crowd cannot block the traffic around the historic courthouse. And doing so would be a city code violation and lawful arrest.

In the letters, Drumwright expressed concerns of counter-protesters and drivers interrupting the rally if the streets were not blocked.

Authorities estimated that between 125-150 people participated in the march near an early voting location.

Video obtained courtesy of the Elon News Network.

Sisk told ABC11 that Drumwright wanted the streets near the courthouse to be closed. But authorities did not allow it because it would limit downtown parking and access to the polls.

Sisk also noted that the closing of Highway 87 would also have to be approved by NCDOT.

"Toward the conclusion of the event, law enforcement had interaction with people in the rally that led to people coming out into the streets," Sisk said. "When we tried to prevent people from entering the street, one of our officers was assaulted, and that's when we deemed it was an unsafe event. Deemed that it was unlawful, and we went ahead and dispersed the crowd."

Authorities said no one was directly sprayed with the pepper spray and that officers aimed the containers toward the ground.

Graham Police holds news conference Sunday


Graham police give update after pepper spray incident during march to the polls event Saturday

Organizer Drumwright holds news conference Sunday


Organizer of Graham voting march discusses pepper spray incident

At least eight people were arrested during the confrontation.

The NAACP and other civil rights leaders say they are investigating the matter.

Drumwright said he is planning another large march on Election Day.