When Trump said Make America Great Again, many of us wondered about the specifics of the great past he was seeking to bring the country back to. Was it when the law designated people with melanin as second-class citizens? Was it when the state would brutally subdue those people at will, by cracking skulls and deploying powerful hose sprays at African-Americans marching for the right to vote?
As we approach the eve of the next referendum on Trump’s vision for this country, it is becoming evident that the President’s vision of that past is already being realized.
Enter the scenes from Alamance County in Graham, North Carolina on Saturday, where a diverse crowd of people—white, Black, even children among them—were marching to the polls and rallying along the way to encourage people to vote, until they were forcibly dispersed by cops from the Graham Police Department who decided to indiscriminately start pepper spraying them.
From the Raleigh News & Observer:
At one point, the marchers held a moment of silence in the street in honor of George Floyd, the Black man killed while in police custody in Minneapolis earlier this summer.
After the moment of silence concluded, law enforcement told people to clear the road.
Then, deputies and police officers used pepper spray on the crowd and began arresting people. Several children in the crowd were affected by the pepper spray.
Melanie Mitchell said her 5-year-old and 11-year-old daughters were pepper-sprayed just after the moment of silence.
She said Graham police approached the crowd assembled in the street and told them to move onto the sidewalk and soon began spraying pepper spray toward the ground. Mitchell’s 5-year-old took off running, she said. Both kids threw up.
“My 11-year-old was terrified,” Mitchell said. “She doesn’t want to come down to Graham anymore.”
The crowd then moved to the courthouse where speeches were being given. But before the speeches concluded, Alamance County sheriff’s deputies began dismantling the sound system and telling the crowd to disperse.
Videos posted on social media back up the reporting of the event, which was organized by Rev. Greg Drumwright, a pastor in Greensboro, to get people to the polls on the last day of early voting in the city.
Cops can be seen deliberately and repeatedly spraying pepper spray into the crowd of people as if those they are paid to serve and protect were more like insects they were determined to eradicate.
Carli Brosseau, a reporter who was there, says children as young as 3 years old were left coughing and vomiting from the pepper spray attack. Other videos from the scene show a woman in a wheelchair appearing to go into a seizure after the cops pepper spray her:
After introducing violence to the peaceful assembly, Graham police arrested around 12 of the would-be voters and at least one reporter on the scene, managing to successfully divert many of the 200 people who had set out to march to the polls that day.
“I think it was their intention, from the moment this march was announced, that we don’t get to the polls in numbers,” one of the few marchers who got to the voting location on Saturday, told the News & Observer.
“Why were we tear-gassed on the day we were going to the polls? Voter intimidation?” said Quenclyn Ellison, one of the organizers of the march. “We’ve been out here doing this for several weeks, and we were peaceful. How do we get treated with such great threat?”
According to the cops, they pepper-sprayed the marchers because they hadn’t followed proper procedures for holding the event.
“[T]he assembly reached a level of conduct that led to the rally being deemed unsafe and unlawful by unified command,” the Graham Police Department said in a statement.
In its evoking of the worst scenes from this country’s history in terms of voting and racial intimidation, this incident in North Carolina—just three days before the election—should horrify and put on alert every American, as should the realization that police are so assured of their power in this country that they fear no consequences even for deploying chemical weapons on American children.
So far, North Carolina’s elected officials have only issued statements on Twitter about the outrageous incident.
“All eligible voters in North Carolina have a constitutional right to cast their vote safely and securely, without threats or intimidation,” said Attorney General Josh Stein, who added that he has “reached out” to the County Sheriff but has gotten no response.
“Peaceful demonstrators should be able to have their voices heard and voter intimidation in any form cannot be tolerated,” N.C. Governor Roy Cooper wrote on Twitter, without saying anything more about what exactly that means.
Americans shouldn’t feel like they are going out on a battle field when they are voting, but that’s where we are again in 2020.