Durham police chief vows to protect after car almost hits protesters

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Wednesday protests in Durham over the death of George Floyd were largely peaceful, but were marred by some scary moments. A car nearly hit hundreds of protesters who were lying down on Main Street, despite a police perimeter that was set up around the area.

“We all were lying down because we were trying to give George Floyd nine minutes of solidarity and peace,” said Alea Crump, a protester from Durham. “About six or seven minutes in, there was just a car at full speed coming at us, so everyone jumps up and scatters.”

The protesters were able to jump up in time and stop the car from hitting anyone. The car turned around and sped away.

Two police officers sped off when protesters tried to confront them about why they didn’t stop the car at the roadblock.

“I mean, they’re here clearly to try to protect us, but they didn’t do that,” Crump said. “We’re all lying on the ground. We’re helpless. Like, there were kids out here.”

Rev. Curtis E. Gatewood is one of the organizers for “Stop Killing Us,” the group that held the protest on Wednesday night.

“Had it not been for one of our observant protesters, the incident could have been fatal,” Gatewood said in a text. “We fail to understand how protesters can almost be run over by a vehicle where hundreds of individuals are peacefully lying in the same area they had been marching right in front of the Durham Police Department where we should have been clearly visible by police as we had not yet dispersed.”

Gatewood said this was “inexpressibly troubling and at a minimum warrants investigation and a valid explanation.”

Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis addressed this incident in the virtual city work session meeting on Thursday afternoon.

“The police department would never intentionally allow people to be hurt or harmed in the middle of a protest,” Davis said.

Davis said it appears the car came from an arterial street that was not blocked off, which might have been Hood Street. She said there were three protests in different parts of Durham Wednesday night, which made it challenging for police to set up roadblocks.

“We basically had to move some resources around, and had no idea that someone would sneak around to Hood Street,” Davis said.

She said the police department is calling on the protest organizers to fully communicate with police about where they plan to be and what they plan to do to make sure that every necessary street is blocked off.

“We’re expecting protesters tonight, and it is our intent to allow them to peacefully protest without those types of incidents happening,” Davis said.

Authorities said they are looking for the driver of the car. There was no word on if they could face charges.

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