DURHAM — The cold and dreary weather didn’t stop a group of almost 30 people from gathering outside of the Durham County Courthouse to show their support of those arrested during protests in the city.
Wednesday marked one of the last first appearance dates for those arrested during protests that came after the grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York in which unarmed black men were killed during police confrontations.
Those protests happened throughout December, and now those arrested at the time are preparing for court dates and supporting each other during the process.
One man who was arrested outside of Southpoint Mall on Dec. 10 was out to support those who were arrested on Dec. 13.
Robert Stephens was arrested as he led a group of protesters down Fayetteville Road with a bull horn.
“It was a surreal experience,” he said. “It was a peaceful protest; we had no idea of what was going to happen, (until) police started grabbing people.”
Stephens was also there to help other arrestees know they’re not facing their charges and court dates alone.
“I just want to make sure that Durham police know, that the individuals that have been arrested know, we are standing with you,” he said. “You are not in this alone, and we will continue fighting.”
Indeed, those facing a district court judge were not alone on Wednesday. Eight individuals were given a new court date of March 10.
Those in court were arrested on Dec. 13 during a protest on Swift Avenue where 50 people shut down numerous streets before they attempted to get onto the Durham Freeway about 9:30 p.m. Eleven people in all were arrested during that protest.
A call to refocus protests, demonstrations and actions was made in a collective statement from arrestees published on Jan. 11 on a local anarchist blog and distributed at Wednesday’s protest.
“We don’t care about getting arrested, and we are not afraid. We are not afraid of police tactics, the city councilors’ or mayor’s words, or media scaremongering. We will not be intimidated out of the streets and away from each other,” the statement read.
“As incidental arrestees in some of these recent protests — among 62 arrested in different actions — we want to urge more action, not guided by the needs or dictates of social justice coordinators, but guided by the unflinching desire for a new world,” it continued.
For Stephens, participating in the protests is all about standing up for what he and others believe in — equality and fair policing.
“It’s hard to stand up and participate in an act of civil disobedience, there are consequences, he said. “But we also know that any law that is unjust is not moral, and we have a moral obligation to break it.”
Yet, the demonstrations aren’t just for him and other arrestees or those that have experienced police brutality — it’s for the future generations.
“If we don’t stand up now … What will my children do?” he said. “I’m standing not just for myself, but for my children and my children’s children to create a better place.”