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NAACP settles suit against Graham


Isaac Groves   | Times-News

The Alamance County Branch of the NAACP first sued the City of Graham over its old protest ordinance, and now the city has settled with the group while it negotiates with the county over protesters’ access to the courthouse.

The eight named plaintiffs in the suit dismissed their claims against the city early this week, according to court records, with a one-year agreement that the city will explain and justify any emergency declarations affecting demonstrations downtown or protests of the Confederate monument in front of the Alamance County Historic Courthouse. According to the settlement, the city would have 24 hours following a declaration of a state of emergency to publish the imminent threat to life or property justifying the declaration, the general source of the threat and explaining how the state of emergency will address that threat.

“The executive has to show there is an actual or imminent emergency,” said Elizabeth Haddix, managing attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Mayor Jerry Peterman declared more than a few states of emergency in June citing unexplained law enforcement intelligence about potential protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. Haddix said the city was violating state law as well as protesters’ First Amendment rights.

The City Council already repealed its restrictive protest ordinance requiring two or more people with the same message to get a permit from the Police Department to demonstrate downtown back in July.

Without that ordinance, the City Council had to hear a request from the Rev. Gregory Drumwright, one of the eight named plaintiffs and organizer of a large march June 8, to march into downtown Saturday, Oct. 31, and have a short rally before going to the one-stop early voting site at the County Annex building on Elm Street.

More: Local activists to hold Halloween march in Graham

City Manager Frankie Maness declined to comment on the dismissal for the city.

The NAACP’s legal team added Alamance County to the suit in July, saying the Sheriff’s Office could not deny protesters access to the courthouse and the Confederate monument they are protesting.

More: Four arrested at NAACP event Saturday in Alamance County

The county has since written a new facilities use policy requiring permits for demonstrations of 15 or more and for organizers to reserve specific areas around the courthouse including the front steps and landing near the monument.

Haddix hinted she wasn’t completely satisfied with that policy, but would not get into details while negotiating with the county. She did say the Sheriff’s Office, which has jurisdiction over the courthouse, was not treating anti-racist protesters the same as counterprotesters supporting the monument.

“The application of the facility use policy seems to vary depending on who’s protesting,” Haddix said. “You can’t engage in viewpoint discrimination or retaliatory arrests. These things are not permissible under our constitution.”

County Attorney Clyde Albright declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.