DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Durham Chief of Police Patrice Andrews released a statement Friday morning regarding the protestors that blocked traffic on Highway 147 during Thursday’s evening commute.
Around 5 p.m. Thursday, a group blocked Hwy 147 at Mangum Street protesting the ongoing events in Gaza. Chief Andrews said as soon as protesters left CCB Plaza, law enforcement enacted a plan to ensure the safety of drivers, officers and protesters and end the “illegal closure of the highway.”
“The actions of this group were disruptive to our entire community, rush hour commuters, and public safety operations. However, the presence of hundreds of protesters and stranded motorists requires a careful and well-coordinated response to ensure the safety of the public. I am confident our actions prevented unnecessary harm and supported a just and appropriate outcome. My officers always strive to handle these events with the utmost of professionalism. Our goal is to resolve each event as quickly as possible without incident. We achieved that outcome last night,” Chief Andrews said.
Chief Andrews also said in the statement; “Some in the community have expressed frustration with the time it took to reopen the highway. While I understand this concern, I stand firmly behind our response to this complex and volatile situation. Our first priority was to reroute the affected traffic and manage commuters still traveling to Durham on the Durham Freeway. As this was happening, staff began mobilizing a plan to reopen the highway. We were prepared to arrest any individuals that did not comply with our lawful orders. We did not and will not prioritize haste over safety, and will always avoid taking haphazard or reckless action that would have placed officers, motorists, bystanders, and protestors in danger.”
“I, like my entire team, am disappointed in the actions this group chose to take to bring attention to their cause. However, I am extremely proud of the way my officers and officers from other jurisdictions came together to bring this situation to a peaceful end.”
One woman who protested on the freeway said she was willing to risk arrest while calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
“That’s why we chose to interrupt business as usual,” Jewish Voice for Peace Triangle member Sandra Korn said.
But some community members expressed frustration with how long it took to reopen the freeway.
North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore disagreed with DPD’s tactics. His statement said in part “I unequivocally condemn the pro-Hamas protests that obstructed traffic during the peak of the rush hour commute for many in the Triangle yesterday.”
Throughout the demonstration, officers diverted traffic off the northbound lanes. Hundreds of other protesters stood to the side of the road and on the highway overpass.
Protesters directly called out Congresswoman Valerie Foushee to sign a ceasefire resolution. She responded with a statement saying in part “”Under international law, Israel has the right to defend itself in the aftermath of Hamas’s terrorist attacks. The current humanitarian crisis must be addressed urgently and I stand with the Biden Administration on ensuring that clean water, food, medicine and aid is delivered to any civilian affected by this conflict.”
Protesters eventually agreed to leave after numerous warnings from police. There were no arrests.
Another protest is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. on Saturday at CCB Plaza.