(Greensboro, N.C.) – The constitutional rights of pre-Election Day protesters must be protected from the Alamance County Sheriff’s department and the Graham, N.C. police department, a lawsuit filed in federal court today claims. Protestors and voters encountered police violence in Graham, N.C. on Saturday, after sheriff’s deputies disrupted a peaceful demonstration that planned to lead voters to the polls on the last day of early voting and last opportunity for same-day voter registration in North Carolina.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the ACLU of North Carolina against Graham Police Chief Kristy Cole and Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson.
“The right to protest has always been an important feature of our democracy and a tool for demanding change,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The police violence in Graham, N.C. perpetrated against a group of peaceful and primarily Black protestors over the weekend is yet another clear violation of the right to free speech and the right to vote. We will not stand back and let the voices of voters continue to be suppressed just hours before Election Day. Racially motivated attacks on peaceful demonstrators is a form of grotesque voter intimidation and we cannot continue to let these acts of violence continue.”
The lawsuit aims to protect protesters’ rights to free speech and assembly under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as rights protected under Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act. Police violence over the weekend is cited as a violation of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which was initially enacted to protect the suffrage rights of formerly enslaved people, including by protecting them and their supporters from violence, intimidation, and harassment.
“Law enforcement officers in Graham violently interfered with voters’ march to the polls on Saturday and suppressed a peaceful and lawful assembly,” said Chantal Stevens, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. “We know that voters, particularly Black and Brown voters, have repeatedly refused to let acts of intimidation silence their voices or deprive them of the right to vote, and we hope that’s the case during this election.”
Read the lawsuit here.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.