Sunday, January 16, 2022

Wilmington police issue four citations to protestors after tense night

Wilmington Police officers watch protestors marching along Third Street in early June. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Wilmington Police officers watch protestors marching along Third Street in early June. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

WILMINGTON — The Wilmington Police Department has announced the citations of four protestors who were given citations for blocking traffic near City Hall Tuesday night, bringing the total number of arrests or citations issued by the department since protests began a month-and-a-half ago to 12.

According to a release, police began receiving calls around 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon that protestors were blocking the intersection of Third and Princess Street “by standing in the crosswalk when the light was green, turning around and walking in the other direction to prevent cars from turning, and walking slowly across the road.”

“Officers spoke with them and asked them to please not block the roadway,” according to a WPD spokesperson. “Around 9 p.m., officers received calls that the protesters were blocking the same intersection again.”

The evening was a tense affair, according to several accounts, including reporting in the StarNews based largely on video taken by freelance journalist Evan Pye. That report notes both protestors and police alternately aggravated and de-escalated those tensions. Thankfully, the latter efforts won out, and there was no violence between the two groups — although several protestors reported rocks being thrown from passing cars.

RELATED: Wilmington protestors and police clash after Council meeting, five arrested, one hospitalized

Chief Donny Williams said his agency was committed to the protection of citizen’s free speech rights.

“And we’ve done that since these protests began on May 31,” he said. “However, when protesters blatantly disregard the law and put our community and our officers at risk, they will be dealt with.” 

On June 14, police arrested two men for painting swastikas and “BLM” [Black Lives Matter] on the back of the George Davis Monument at Market and Third Street.

Two days later, roughly 100 protestors had gathered outside the Wilmington Convention Center to attend a City Council meeting, but only 38 were allowed to go inside. The remainder continued protesting outside the main entrance by the Cape Fear River.

“Toward the end of the meeting, Lily Nicole, who is one of the protest organizers, was given the opportunity to speak even though she was not on the agenda. Due to her behavior while speaking, she was escorted out of the convention center, where she then led the rest of the crowd around to Nutt Street and blocked all parking deck exits,” according to a WPD press release issued on June 17.

The department said its police officers were forced to escort one of the convention center workers out of the parking deck “while the crowd attempted to block the officers in with a vehicle and with their bodies.”

“Officers were able to get the worker out safely, but the crowd was growing increasingly hostile,” the WPD said at the time.

According to police, the protestors then attempted to block City Council members from leaving the building, and in response the WPD Mobile Field Force formed a protective wall to move the crowd back so councilmembers could safely depart.

Five protestors were later arrested after the crowd moved to City Hall, blocking traffic on Third Street, according to the WPD.

As reported by Port City Daily, at least two protestors were pepper-sprayed by a New Hanover County Sheriff’s deputy, and a 22-year-old female was allegedly hospitalized after a WPD officer pulled on her arm, apparently dislocating her shoulder, according to protest organizers.

During the June 16 City Council meeting, “Tensions rose after the leader of the local protest against police brutality, Lily Nicole, was asked to leave a City Council meeting held at the Wilmington Convention Center after speaking out of turn. Also, Council also did not implement any of the group’s seven demands for reform in adopting its fiscal year 2020-2021 budget, which did not include any notable police-related funding changes.”

The four protestors issued citations on Tuesday evening include:

  • Brandon Odeh, 25: impeding traffic
  • Christopher Haynes, 31: impeding traffic
  • Keylon Armstrong, 23: impeding traffic
  • Sloan Godbey, 21: impeding traffic

The WPD also summarized the citations and arrests of eight other protestors who have been arrested or cited since June 2 — two days after the May 31 protests which led to law enforcement responding with tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets. (The WPD did not make any arrests or issue citations between May 31 and June 1, according to spokesperson Jessica Williams. During that period, additional arrests were made by the New Hanover Sheriff’s Office.)

Between June 2 and June 16, the WPD arrested or issued citations for the following individuals:

June 16, 2020

  • Zachary Ulrich, 30: Failure to disperse on command; impede traffic – willfully sitting/standing/lying on highway/street
  • Jarod Nizen, 22: Failure to disperse on command
  • Brandon Odeh, 25: Impede traffic – willfully sitting/standing/lying on highway/street
  • Israel Sorenson, 28: Failure to disperse on command; impede traffic – willfully sitting/standing/lying on highway/street
  • Christopher Haynes, 31: Failure to Disperse on Command; Impede Traffic – Willfully Sit/Stand/Lie on Highway/Street

June 14, 2020

  • Marion Joyner, 34: Damage to real property
  • James Frazier, 26: Damage to real property

June 2, 2020

  • Erin France, 23: Failure to disperse on command; resisting, delaying, or obstructing an officer (RDO); curfew violation
  • Jonathan Sanders, 28: Disorderly conduct; curfew violation
  • Antonio Johnson, 26: Disorderly conduct; curfew violation

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