Bail reform activists charged after protest at Durham detention center

Two bail reform activists were charged Friday after chaining themselves to a gate outside the Durham County Detention Center Thursday.

Kayla ONeill Hartsfield, 25, and Serena Elysa Sebring Wadlington, 41, both of Durham, were charged with public disturbance, second-degree trespass and failure to disperse. Both were released on $2,000 unsecured bonds with a court appearance set for June 12.

The group Southerners on New Ground, in which the two are leaders, participated in the national Black Mamas Bailout movement, bailing out incarcerated mothers out of jail for mother’s day. The two women chained themselves to the gates outside the detention center to protest the cash bail system and pretrial detention. This led the Durham County Sheriff’s office to close Pettigrew Street, where protesters gathered, and lock down the facility.

“We call for the city and county of Durham to stop caging Black mothers and caregivers before Mother’s Day and end money bail and pre-trial detention,” the group wrote in a press statement.

The two women unchained themselves around 8 p.m. Thursday. Warrants were issued and they surrendered in the early afternoon Friday.

In a prepared statement, Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said his department respects free speech but the protest crossed legal lines.

“While we honor this fundamental constitutional right, in this specific incident, laws were broken, leading to charges being filed,” Birkhead said in the statement.

Neither Hartsfield nor Wadlington could be reached directly for comment Friday.

 

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