Responding to five demonstrations and dozens of arrests in the past two weeks, Mayor Bill Bell said the city needs to re-emphasize the rules for protests it adopted earlier this year.
“I just hope we get this back again to the general public,” Bell said during Monday night’s City Council meeting.
Those rules, adopted in February, include:• Demonstrators must get a parade permit and may not march at night.
• Demonstrators must not wear masks, hoods or other devices to hide their identity.
• Demonstrators “shall not damage property, commit assaults, participate in disorderly conduct, possess or use pyrotechnics, or possess dangerous weapons such as rocks, bricks etc.”
• Demonstrators must stay off police parking lots and grassy areas next to police buildings.
“I think it’s really important that we get that resolution that we passed unanimously as a council out into the public once again as well as to the police,” said Councilman Eugene Brown.
The regulations were a response to protests after Durham teenager Jesus Huerta fatally shot himself while in police custody in November 2013.
The recent protests have come after authorities in Ferguson, Mo. and New York City declined to prosecute white police officers who killed black suspects Michael Brown Jr. and Eric Garner.
Four of the recent protests have occurred at night and all five involved demonstrators blocking streets – twice impeding the Durham Freeway.
City council members have received citizen complaints about police brutality toward some protesters, as well as complaints about the protests themselves.
Councilman Don Moffitt, who observed a protest march Saturday night that went from the Walltown Recreation Center to near the freeway on-ramp on Swift Avenue, praised the police.
“They’ve been demonstrating a tremendous amount of training and discipline and professionalism,” he said.
Moffitt said he saw no marked police cars or uniformed officers along the march route until marchers approached the freeway.
Some demonstrators have been motivated by anger and frustration “we all understand,” he said.
“But there are also people coming out and using those protests ... to provoke confrontations with police in the hopes they can get the police to overreact or make a mistake.”
Council member Brown observed demonstrators at the Durham Performing Arts Center and CCB Plaza on Dec. 5 and said police acted “professionally, many times with restraint.”
“I think I can speak for my colleagues, we’re just appalled by the New York decision and certainly by Missouri,” Brown said. “But, on the other hand, in terms of the protesters ... when you start blocking major highways, and streets as well, in my judgment that’s not a very smart thing to do and I think you’re alienating many more people than you’re ... winning to your side.”