Graham protesters reach court settlement following summer arrests

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GRAHAM, N.C. — Protesters call it a small, but meaningful step in the right direction, following a judge’s ruling in favor of their right to peacefully protest the controversial Confederate monument.  

Last summer, as unrest was seen across the country, Graham saw its own share of clashes. Dozens of individuals were arrested at the base of the Confederate monument that sits on the grounds of the old Alamance County Courthouse.  

Among those arrested was Alamance County NAACP leader Barrett Brown, who later filed a lawsuit against the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office.  

In the lawsuit, they claimed that the sheriff’s office, and the county, were not giving them the right to free speech by protesting at the base of the monument.  

On Wednesday, a North Carolina judged ruled in favor of the members of the Alamance County NAACP and the individuals arrested.  

In a statement from the attorneys of the NAACP and those individuals, it was discussed that the settlement will require certain things from the county sheriff’s office and county commissioners.

Background on the settlement: 

  • The settlement agreement requires the sheriff’s office to allow protestors access to the Historic Courthouse grounds where the Confederate monument is located, and may not restrict that access unless necessary on a short-term basis due to an emergency situation. 
  • It also requires the sheriff’s office to agree that protestors’ use of “swear” or “indecent” words which do not meet the legal definition of “fighting words” is protected under the First Amendment and is not lawful grounds for arrest, even when such language is directed at law enforcement officers. Finally, it requires county officials, including all members of the Board of County Commissioners and all sworn Alamance County Sheriff’s Office personnel, to participate in educational training on implicit racial bias and racial equity. 
  • This settlement resolves plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims against the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office and county officials, and because it is entered as a Consent Order, remains under the court’s jurisdiction for enforcement should that be necessary. 

Representatives from the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office told FOX8 education seminars regarding racial bias are held consistently throughout the year. They also stated that the other requirements laid out in the settlement have been requirements in the sheriff’s office for years.  

It is unknown if county commissioners have gone through similar racial equity and implicit bias training.  

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