DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – On Friday night, a large group of protesters gathered in front of Durham Police Headquarters for a rally.
The protesters called for the city of Durham to defund the police and for higher pay for essential workers.
Some protesters started painting a message on Main Street in front of the Durham Police Department, but they said the message is a surprise.
A group of protesters has been camped out in front of Durham Police Headquarters since Monday when the city council approved a $70 million budget for the police department.
That budget included a 5 percent increase in funding for the police department.
The protesters had asked the city council to reallocate funds from the police to help the Black and Latino communities in Durham with jobs, food, and housing. When the council did not, the protesters decided to “occupy” an area outside police headquarters.
Durham City Councilman Mark Anthony Middleton said he is in support of “defunding” police and he put out a proposal Thursday.
The proposal does not include taking any physical money from the police budget. However, he said the plan is to do that further down the line.
“I’m suggesting to those who want to defund the police, that we do this by making them less necessary,” Middleton said.
Middleton said he wants to put $2.5 million toward creating a universal basic income for the most vulnerable families in Durham in hopes of bringing crime down in those areas.
He is also asking the city to look at sending mental health responders to some calls rather than armed police officers.
“That’s going to leave our officers more time on the street and more time handling the more serious crimes,” said Randy Hagler, with the North Carolina Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).
Hagler said that sending mental health responders to certain calls is not a bad idea.
However, he said police departments in North Carolina have concerns about cutting anything from their budget.
“You’re trying to put the very best officers and services that you can at work every day and to do that it takes dollars,” Hagler said.
CBS 17 asked protesters camped out in front of the Durham Police Department what they think of Middleton’s proposal.
Protest organizer Skip Gibbs said until the city takes money from the police budget they are going to stay camped out at police headquarters.
“Until they do that, or until they agree to use something to help the Black and Brown residents of Durham, North Carolina, we’re going to stay right here,” Gibbs said.
Middleton said he plans to present a more formal resolution to council in the coming months.
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