RALEIGH — Some activists involved in Raleigh Black Lives Matter protests said they believe a city curfew prioritized businesses and downtown property over the ability for their voices to be heard.
Protesters gathered in Raleigh on Aug. 28 and 29 to protest in response to the death of Keith Collins and the shooting of Jacob Blake.
In January, Raleigh officer W.B. Tapscott stopped Collins after someone reported seeing an individual with a large, black handgun outside a Big Lots store.
Collins, who matched the description from the report, was walking away from the complex that contains Big Lots when he began fleeing from Tapscott's initial approach.
At one point during the pursuit, Collins pivoted toward Tapscott with what investigators discovered to be a Daisy air pistol in his hand. Tapscott fired 11 rounds: four that hit Collins after he turned toward the police officer; three that were fired while Collins was attempting to sit up; then four more, which were fired while Collins was still moving on the ground.
According to the autopsy, Collins suffered from six gunshot wounds.
The district attorney's decision came less than a week after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Protesters said they were upset after Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin enacted a citywide curfew Aug. 28, the same day the Wake County district attorney released the decision that the officer involved in the shooting of Keith Collins would not face criminal charges.
Baldwin said during a press conference that the decision to impose a curfew was made before the announcement that Tapscott would not be charged, and that her team was unaware of the ruling when discussing a curfew.
She said while she and her office firmly believe in the mission of social justice, they most importantly want to protect the downtown Raleigh area and maintain peace in the community.
“She knew how angry and emotional we would be, and she said, ‘I’m going to inhibit your First Amendment rights’,” said Kordel Davis, adviser at the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees and leader of the Aug. 29 demonstrations.
Kristie Puckett-Williams, the statewide manager of the N.C. ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice, said she believes Baldwin defending the curfew in the name of public safety was an excuse used to hide the fact that the city lacks the tools needed to connect with the community in a meaningful and transformative way.
“It’s people outraged, it’s an outcry, but it’s also a mourning," she said. "Black people, brown people and Indigenous people have historically been hurt by the system, so the public mourning of that is also a significant part of healing and moving forward. Not being able to do so is part of the issue, because they don’t feel heard.
"You can’t hear people if you’re telling them to be quiet.”
Puckett-Williams said she believes — based on the protests she’s been to and what she’s heard from the people working with her campaign across the state — the police are showing up to expected gatherings in the same manner, no matter the location.
“They have the same militarized equipment and tactics they use, and when they hide behind, ‘Oh, we just need better training,’ we need to call them on that,” Puckett-Williams said. “If I come to your house, and I’ve got on a swimsuit, you think I’m coming to swim, right? If you show up in riot gear, what does that do to the crowd?”
When Puckett-Williams arrived in Raleigh on Aug. 28, she said the setup by the police was reminiscent of what she had seen throughout the summer in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.
Despite the presence, demonstrators marched through downtown demanding justice for Jacob Blake, Keith Collins and other victims of police violence within and outside of the Triangle. Puckett-Williams said $13,000 was spent when she bailed out 10 of the 14 people arrested Aug. 28.
On Aug. 29, the gathering led through the streets to the Capitol was significantly smaller than the one that had met police the night before. Streets where demonstrations had massed on Friday were heavily barricaded, and most of the police stationed downtown were in either vehicles or riot gear.
The people who continued to protest made it clear why they were still doing so.
“Unless we continue to show up, unless we continue to speak out, they’re gonna let the issue drop,” said Charlotte Rose, one of the main speakers at the Capitol on Saturday night. “They’re only reacting to our actions, so if we cease acting, they will no longer react.”’
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.