Police surrounded Confederate statue base while protesters called for prison reform
Activists critical of Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews’ policies and management of the jail are now calling for his removal.
Barriers surrounded the base of the old Confederate statue outside the old Durham County courthouse Monday night. About a dozen law enforcement officers stood guard before a planned protest outside the building where the Durham County commissioners meet.
No one touched the barriers, as Inside-Outside Alliance and Alerta Migratoria members rallied. The groups are demanding the commissioners put their issues on an October meeting agenda. They want the county to end what they call the sheriff’s collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to maintain free in-person jail visitation and to “end the deaths in the Durham county jail.”
Greg Williams of Inside-Outside Alliance said through a megaphone the protest was “an opening salvo of escalation.”
Durham will offer video visitation with inmates starting Oct. 15, which Inside-Outside Alliance members worry will lead to the end of in-person visitation. The sheriff and county commissioners have said that will not happen.
The protest grew from about a dozen protesters to 18. They chanted: “We gonna give them hell till they open every cell,” “No borders, no nations, stop deportations” and “Money for jobs and education, not for video visitation.”
Inside-Outside Alliance advocates for those incarcerated in the Durham County jail and holds regular protests against jail policies. On Monday, they said they also want Andrews gone as sheriff.
“The sheriff has got to go,” they chanted, followed by an expletive about Andrews, and “1, 2, 3, Andrews is a liar. 4, 5, 6, set his house on fire.”
Only a few people gathered at the building who weren’t protesters, police or media.
The protest ended about an hour.
Afterward, demonstrator Lucy Bergwall said she hadn’t even noticed the new barriers around the pedestal, where activists toppled the statue of a Confederate soldier last month.
Bergwall has been with Inside-Outside Alliance for eight months.
“I think the jail is one current manifestation of the white supremacist state,” she said.
“The long-term vision is of prison abolition,” she said, adding the protesters want the county to hold the sheriff accountable through budgetary measures, and to issue resolutions and statements about video visitation and ICE.
On Tuesday, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Tamara Gibbs responded to questions seeking more information about the barriers, saying Andrews is “concerned sharing tactical or operational details would compromise the safety and security of future events.”