Police deploy pepper spray on adult demonstrators, children at NC march

News & Observer

North Carolina Law enforcement officials deployed pepper spray on demonstrators, including multiple children, who were marching in the state on Saturday to encourage people to vote.

A group of approximately 200 people were marching with a police escort from a local church to Court Square in Graham, N.C. on Saturday, the Raleigh News & Observer reported.

Several local officials were also participating in parts of the march and rally calling on voters to cast their ballots. 

After marchers held a moment of silence for George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by police earlier this year in Minneapolis, Minn., law enforcement told the group to clear the road.

Deputies from the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office and the City of Graham Police Department began using pepper spray on the crowd and arresting demonstrators, the News & Observer reported. Melanie Mitchell told the outlet that her daughters, who are 5- and 11-years-old, were both pepper sprayed. 

“My 11-year-old was terrified,” Mitchell said, saying that both of her daughters vomited after coming into contact with the pepper spray.

Police said a Saturday statement that officers “deployed a pepper based vapor onto the ground to assist in the dispersing the crowd. At no time during this event did any member of the Graham Police Department directly spray any participant in the march with chemical irritants.”

The crowd allegedly tried to move to a nearby courthouse, but sheriff’s deputies sought to take apart their sound system. Deputies and police officers allegedly used pepper spray on the crowd again to move the marchers away from the courthouse.

One woman, Veronica Holman, said her 3-year-old great-nephew also vomited after coming into contact with pepper spray by law enforcement.

A video quickly went viral across social media that showed a woman in a wheelchair reacting to the pepper spray, according to the News & Observer.

Later, approximately 100 marchers demonstrated outside of the county jail after at least 12 individuals were arrested at the scene of the demonstration, including a local news reporter.

The march was also billed as a demonstration against police violence. 

In a Saturday statement, the Graham Police Department said that marchers did not follow guidelines for holding the demonstration and that organizers did not submit the necessary petition to close roads in the North Carolina city. 

The department also defended the use of pepper spray, claiming “[T]he assembly reached a level of conduct that led to the rally being deemed unsafe and unlawful by unified command.”  

The incident comes just days before the Nov. 3 election, where former Vice President Joe Biden and President Trump are running a tight race in the critical Tar Heel state, the Democratic nominee holding a marginal lead in most recent polls. 

The Supreme Court this week rejected a bid from the Republican Party to fast-track a case to block mail-in ballot extensions in the state.

Millions of Americans have already cast their ballots through early voting or voting by mail amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Updated 10:19 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Joe Biden North Carolina police brutality

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