News

Greensboro writer on being on the ground in Charlottesville

You need to make time to read this first-person piece on the chaos of this weekend’s deadly rally in Charlottesville by Greensboro’s own Jordan Green.

Green, a writer and senior editor at Triad City Beat, has been covering right-wing and white supremacist gatherings – and their counter-protests – for years. He wrote the piece from Charlottesville for The Nation magazine.

Green interviewed people on the scene, getting some sobering reflections from North Carolinians who showed up to protest the “Unite the Right” rally.

From his piece:

Tanesha Hudson, a local activist with Showing Up for Racial Justice, reflected on the trauma during a speak-out at McGuffey Park three hours after the attack.

“I really don’t know how to feel about today,” she said. “I know people didn’t come out here to lose their life. I know people came out here thinking that the police would at least protect us. We are citizens here in Charlottesville that pay our taxes, and our tax dollars didn’t work for us today; it worked for them. They were protecting them. They escorted them, they walked them out to make sure they were okay. They never once, never once even offered or lifted a finger. The only thing they lifted for us to do was shoot tear gas. They never once did anything to protect us—the people who are standing for peace and unity and love and togetherness.”

As she spoke, mourners laid flowers in a pile in the center of the park to honor those killed and injured in the attack. The mood in the stricken crowd modulated between defeat and resolve.

“This is like a replay of Jim Crow,” Hudson said. “I mean, I don’t know what other way to put it. I stand here as a young black lady, and I feel like I’m living through Jim Crow. I feel like today was a replay of 1960. Things I hear my grandmother and grandfather talk about, I witnessed today.”

Read the whole thing here.

News

Payton McGarry, HB 2/HB 142 plaintiff, running for Greensboro City Council

Filing for local elections ended Friday and – perhaps predictably in a politically fractious year at the state and national level – there are a raft of first-time candidates on this year’s ballots.

Among them, one of the most interesting is Payton McGarry. The 21-year old transgender man was a plaintiff in the original HB 2 lawsuit – and is playing the same role in the amended suit against HB 142.

McGarry, a student at UNCG, has filed to run for City Council in Greensboro.

Payton McGarry, now a candidate for Greensboro City Council.

Since HB 2 was originally passed, McGarry has been a visible and vocal part of opposition to measures that would limit transgender protections. Now he’s looking to become the first openly LGBT member of the Greensboro City Council. It’s McGarry’s first run for office – and it could be an uphill battle. Though the city council races are officially non-partisan, McGarry is a liberal Democrat running against a moderate Democrat incumbent in Councilman Justin Outling. Leaning socially liberal and fiscally conservative, Outling won the District 3 seat in his own right after initially being appointed to finish the term of a departing councilman. That was no small feat for Outling, a black Democrat running in a council district whose representatives have traditionally been white and more conservative.

Outling has proven to be a moderate in office, which has made him a target for some more left-leaning candidates.

Two other candidates have also filed for the seat – Anturan Marsh and Craig Martin.

The primary election will be held Oct. 10. Election Day is Nov. 7.

News

Greensboro looks to learn from nationwide study on police review boards

If you’ve been following the tensions between the Greensboro Police Department, the community and the police complaint review board, you should read Susan Ladd’s latest column.

The columnist for Greensboro’s News & Record looks at a study of citizen boards for police oversight across the country – and what Greensboro and other N.C. cities can learn from it.

From her column:

The [Greensboro] PCRB generally conforms to what the study describes as the review-focused model of oversight boards, which are headed by civilian volunteers, review the quality of police internal affairs investigations, and make recommendations regarding its findings or requests further investigation.

And the PCRB is plagued by some of the weaknesses the study identifies in review models: it has limited authority, few organizational resources and is less independent than other forms of oversight. Because review boards focus on individual cases, their ability to promote systemic change within a law enforcement agency is limited. St. Petersburg, San Diego and Indianapolis also follow the review model.

Investigation-focused models (San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C.) are generally staffed by paid civilian investigators who conduct independent investigations of complaints against police officers. These boards may even replace the police internal affairs process. They are the most independent, but they also are the most expensive form of oversight and face the strongest resistance from police departments, the study says.

Auditor/monitor-focused boards (Denver, New Orleans, Los Angeles) don’t focus on individual cases but use a paid staff with technical expertise to review police department records, case files and databases to determine patterns in complaints and make suggestions for improvement.

Many boards are organizational hybrids that combine different organizational forms and types of authority. A toolkit on NACOLE’s website includes examples of charter language, oversight policies and procedures, complaint forms, annual reports and other resources.

News, Trump Administration

Facing deportation, grandmother takes sanctuary in Greensboro church

St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Greensboro is offering sanctuary to a grandmother facing deportation.

Juana Luz Tobar Ortega of High Point is a mother of four and grandmother of two. She fled violence in Guatemala and moved to Asheboro in 1993. Her husband is a U.S. citizen.

The Greensboro church’s leaders voted unanimously to offer Ortega sanctuary.

From the WFDD story:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has ordered her to leave the country and will not grant her a stay of removal, which led to the church vote.

According to advocacy group American Friends Service Committee, this is the first time in several years that someone has been offered sanctuary in North Carolina.

“There’s absolutely no reason for this woman to be torn away from her family and her community. She’s a child of God and we will give her shelter until ICE drops her deportation order,” said St. Barnabas Rev. Randall Keeney in a statement.

Ortega has four children and two grandchildren, and her husband is a U.S. citizen.

After a welcoming ceremony at St. Barnabas, Ortega’s supporters will head to Senator Thom Tillis’ office in High Point to ask him to intervene.

The News & Record, Greensboro’s daily paper, is following the story:

“I hope not to be here long,” she said during an emotional press conference with family and supporters, which included the pastor at St. Barnabas and a throng of other faith leaders.

“I hope to return to my home soon. To be with my family,” Ortega, an Asheboro resident, said as her grandchildren held “Don’t deport my grandma” signs.

The church voted to offer her shelter instead of seeing her separated from her family.

Ortega, who is from Guatemala, is believed to be the first person in North Carolina to seek sanctuary against immigration officials at a church. It is unclear whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers will enter the church and forcibly remove her.

Ortega has been here more than two decades. Her supporters blame an immigration policy that does not offer a path to citizenship for many immigrants.

“We are here to welcome Juana into our family,” St. Barnabas Pastor Randall Kenney said, from the church’s sanctuary. “Our hopes in doing this is we will be able to change the hearts and minds of people with influence.”

Triad City Beat is also covering Ortega’s story.

Read more

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Jose Charles case in Greensboro latest NC police/community flash point

If you haven’t been following the case of Jose Charles in Greensboro, it’s time to start paying attention.

The story of the altercation between a 16-year-old Charles and police goes back to last year’s July 4th celebrations in downtown Greensboro.

From a story in Greensboro’s News & Record:

Charles was 15 when he was arrested and charged with malicious assault on an officer, disorderly conduct, simple affray and resisting arrest, according to Figueroa. The teen also is accused of spitting blood on an officer’s face.

Figueroa and several community organizations said Charles was attacked by a group of kids, then grabbed by an officer near Friendly Avenue. He spit blood because he was coughing and couldn’t breathe, witnesses said.

This week, after months of tensions over access to the police video of the incident, protesters disrupted a Greensboro City Council meeting and staged a protest in the street outside where 8 were arrested for impeding the flow of traffic.

From Triad City Beat’s coverage of the protest:

The tone was set early in the meeting when, in the midst of a discussion about a downtown parking deck, protesters scattered throughout the capacity crowd raised pink signs reading “Justice for Jose,” “City council take action” and “We believe the PCRB.”

The protest came on the heels of city council watching restricted police body camera video showing the July 4, 2016 incident involving the police and the then-15-year-old on Monday night, with discussion in closed session bleeding into the next day. Council members have made no comment about the video, citing a superior court judge’s order prohibiting them from discussing it.

Also precipitating the protest was the resignation of three members of the police complaint review board. Lindy Garnette, the first to resign, was pressured by the city attorney and chair of the human relations chair after she spoke publicly about the board’s disagreement with the police department’s decision to clear itself of wrongdoing in a complaint filed on his behalf by Jose Charles’ mother, Tamara Figueroa.

The Charles case is just the latest in a series of incidents that have heightened tension between police and the communities they serve. Last year’s fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte led to large scale protests and rioting.

The case is also the latest in which access to police video – and whether public officials can comment on it – has been central to the controversy.