GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Several protesters were removed from a Greensboro City Council meeting after the council banned a member of their organization from attending meetings.
During the Sept. 5 city council meeting, an activist named Luis Medina with Working-class and Houseless Organizing Alliance, a Greensboro-based group, was removed from the council chambers and then temporarily banned after striking a microphone while he was speaking.
Advocates from WHOA took to the microphone during the Oct. 3 meeting to criticize the council for this decision, as well as a new policy adopted in July allowing the council to ban speakers they deem “disruptive.”
Del Stone, a member of WHOA, called into question the reasoning for banning Medina, stating that the microphone he hit during his speech was functional when subsequent speakers used it. Councilwoman Sharon Hightower defended the decision, as the council member who sits closest to the speaking podium, and said she felt like she could have been hit by something.
A WHOA member identified as Billy Belcher then came to the microphone to criticize the council’s decision to send police to Medina’s house to tell him he was banned from the meetings, rather than sending a notice through the mail.
“Your idea of accountability means that cops can choke a man to death on camera, right? And nothing gets done,” Belcher said. “But if you are living on the street and you have no home and you fall asleep in the doorway, or if you leave your stuff in the park because you got no place to put it, then we get accountability. Right away, the hammer comes down, and we got a bunch of new ordinances passed. There’s one form of accountability we’ve seen. You decided to let a bunch of white cops hog-tie and torture Black people, a lot of Black women, without punishment. But if you get excited or frustrated in here like my friend Luis and you swat this microphone, the punishment is swift. You’re banned from the people’s chambers, and a couple of cops will put on their guns and come to your house as it turns out. It is kind of hard to believe you actually sent the police to two different whole people’s houses over that ejection.”
Belcher later said, “You don’t believe in accountability. You believe in intimidation. I’m curious, if I was to bring a bunch of people in here, right, and we start chanting and disrupting your sense of decorum, are you going to send a bunch of cops to every person’s house in that case? Have you thought about that or is that just something for Luis and WHOA?”
“That’s a serious question?” Vaughan asked. After Belcher answered, “Yeah,” Vaughan said, “If it has to be legally served, it will be served by the police department.”
“Well, let’s find out,” Belcher said before calling out, “Whose house is it?”
“Our house,” a number of protestors in the chamber called in response.
They continued to chant until they were removed with Vaughan asking the officers escorting the protestors out to “be sure to get their names.”
Police confirmed that no one was arrested or charged for this. No one involved has been served with bans to future meetings “as of now.” There were 11 people, including members of WHOA, the Young Communist League and Communist Party USA, and two additional people joined in on the chanting when they started, including a disability activist from NC ADAPT, according to WHOA.
Our action was one of nonviolent civil disobedience in protest of the council’s policies against folks who are houseless and the mayor’s newly enacted policy of banning speakers from council meetings. We walked out of the chamber when security officers and cops asked us to leave, and refused to give up the names of our comrades.
The organization also responded to comments made after they were removed. According to the News & Record, Outreach Coordinator Gary Canapinno said that the protesters “ran away” after they were escorted out, and the mayor remarked that the protesters were “cowards.”
“In the last city election, in July 2022, only 16 percent of voters cast ballots. What does it say about our system that 84% of voters opt out of it altogether? It’s also worth noting that Mayor Vaughan won her seat by only 425 votes. The mayor hardly has a mandate. Working-class people bringing issues that other working-class people have to council, namely in regard to the housing crisis and police brutality, do more to represent the people than any council member.
“Our action demonstrated the nonviability of the mayor’s ban policy and the fact that we will face them even though they have armed police on their side. The ‘cowards’ are our elected politicians who ban us from meetings. A coward bans someone for hitting a microphone because they are afraid of what they are saying. A coward sends armed police officers to someone’s house to intimidate them into not speaking. “Del Stone, WHOA
WHOA states that they’ll continue to protest the policy of banning speakers, stating their belief that it was designed to target people who bring up issues of homelessness and police brutality during these meetings.
Mayor Vaughan’s office has been reached for comment.