3 arrested, Media Expelled from NC Governor's Office

The Raleigh State Capitol police expelled the media from the capitol dome on Wed. June 26, prior to arresting 3 men who refused to leave, and after Gov. Pat McCrory chose not to meet with a group of 50 North Carolina residents asking him to veto a slate of bills they see as mean-spirited and extreme.



The Raleigh State Capitol police expelled the media from the capitol dome on Wed. June 26, prior to arresting 3 men who refused to leave, and after Gov. Pat McCrory chose not to meet with a group of 50 North Carolina residents asking him to veto a slate of bills they see as mean-spirited and extreme.

3_unarrested.jpgThose arrested were Hudson Vaughan, Joshua Vincent, and Rob Stephens (field director for the NC NAACP). Story of America film directors Annabel Park and Eric Byler were shut out of the building, along with 2 local news crews, 2 citizen journalists, a print journalist, NAACP's staff videographer. 

About an hour later, with the 3 men still inside, Chief Glen B. Allen, the state capitol police chief, came out to speak to NAACP attorney Jamie Phillips. Members of the press, and about 20 of the protesters, had been waiting outside the capitol's north entrance after seeing a police officer park a car there, presumably to transport the detainees.

Chief Allen said he was trying to convince the men to leave on their own volition. He said that he would allow Phillips to come into the building to observe if it became necessary to arrest the men. He also said that he would allow the media to observe. 

However, after the arrests were made and the men were handcuffed, they were hurried to the south entrance of the capitol building in order to avoid the media. It seems clear to me that the decision to "un-arrest" the men and issue them citations instead was part of an effort to avoid media exposure. But Chief Allen told Phillips that it was for public safety reasons.

4 KEY MOMENTS

6:21 - Chief Allen says, "If the media is interested in staying, we'll let you know when we're about to do it. We'll bring them out, probably."

6:59 - The door to the state capitol opens and a head peeks out.

7:08 - Forward Together movement organizer Laurel Ashton receives a phone call alerting her that the 3 detainees are being ushered to the opposite side of the building.

7:25 - Rob Stephens explains it was the sight of the media waiting outside that caused them capitol police to remove their handcuffs and "un-arrest" them, issuing citations instead. This corroborates what our camera captured at 6:59, when the door opened and a head peeked out at the north entrance. Moments later, the detainees were released using the south entrance.

NOTE: The commentary below has been edited, after speaking directly with Chief Allen one week later, July 3, both before and after "Wednesday Witness 3," (video coming soon).

As a documentary filmmaker, I always want to get the story, so take what I am about say with a grain of salt. While I respect and appreciate the role of law enforcement in keeping the peace when there are acts of civil disobedience, I feel that some of the actions taken inside the capitol building were an infringement of politics on law enforcement.

Based on accounts given by the 3 men who were arrested, Gov. McCrory's communications director, Kim Genardo, was heavily involved in decision-making while the men were detained inside the building. This could explain why Chief Allen made assurances to the press outside the building, and then was not able to make good on those assurances. During their interviews after being released,  the men implied that law enforcement decisions inside the capitol were made, not in the interest of public safety, but rather in the interest of Gov. McCrory's office. What was that interest?

The local ABC News affiliate had gone live with the story that three men were being held inside the capitol building. It is probable that the Governor's office decided that they did not want further attention drawn to the civil disobedience actions that have been taking place over the past few months, nor to the legislation that is triggering the protests.

Gov. McCrory will need to make decisions as to whether to sign each of bills currently being passed in the general assembly, and it seems that he would prefer to have as little media attention as possible when he does. But this is not the role of law enforcement. The role of law enforcement is public safety. A police chief should not be dictated to by a political messaging professional, even he or she works for the governor. There are many areas where political optics get in the way of sound execution of laws and policy. Police work should not be one of them.

UPDATE | July 3, 2013

In newspaper accounts of this incident, Chief Allen is quoted as saying that it was in the interest of safety that the detainees were released using the south door, rather than the north door where the media and the protesters were waiting. When I read this, I did not see the logic. How could one door be any more safe than the other?

Today, however, I had the opportunity to speak directly with Chief Allen while I was waiting for protesters to arrive at the capitol for their third Wednesday Witness (Annabel Park and I have now filmed all three, as well as all but one of the Moral Monday protests). Chief Allen explained to me that having protesters sitting on the steps between the door and the police cruiser could have created unsafe conditions. As he said these words, I found him to be credible and sincere. I have since asked myself why he couldn't have asked the protesters to move behind a certain line. If they had agreed, he could have then proceeded to either release the prisoners, or place them in the police cruiser, at the north entrance as had been planned.

After Wednesday Witness 3 concluded, I videotaped a conversation between Chief Allen and Rob Stephens of the NAACP, who seems to be the leader in charge of Wednesday Witness (he coordinated the action once again today). Chief Allen said to Stephens what he had said to me, and said it was his decision to release the 3 at the south door. As you will see in our upcoming video, Stephens then asked how the decision was made to remove their handcuffs and release them with citations. Stephens feels this decisions was connected to seeing the media waiting outside. 

NOTE: We apologize for not identifying Hudson Vaughan in the video. He had given his name during his post-arrest interview, but we chopped out the portion of the video where he was identified in order to keep the video as short as possible.

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