DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Protesters camped out at Durham Police headquarters on East Main Street all night Monday and all day Tuesday after city leaders approved an increase in police funding.
About a handful of protesters set up their tents on Monday night after city council unanimously approved $70 million in funding for Durham Police. Durham city leaders said this included a 5 percent increase in funding from last year due to inflation.
The protesters had asked city council to reallocate some funds from the Durham Police Department to other areas.
Skip Gibbs, a community activist who organized the protest, said he and other protesters had asked the city to move funds toward reducing food insecurity and assisting people in the black community get jobs and start businesses.
When city council approved an increase in funding and didn’t set aside funding for the other areas they had requested, Gibbs said he and few other people decided to “occupy” police headquarters.
“I am protesting the fact that they are willing to tell us that black lives matter but won’t invest in black lives,” Gibbs said. “I’m just going to stand in protest until they acknowledge that or at least tell us their reasoning behind giving the police department $70 million.”
During the day on Tuesday, the movement had grown as more tents began to pop up Durham Police headquarters and about a dozen people sat outside the police department in protest.
Durham City Councilman Mark Anthony Middleton said due to inflation, the police department needed a five percent increase in funding.
“If anyone can come up with a rate lower than $70 million to fund a department that’s charged right now with the protection of almost 300,000 people that’s less than $70 million, I’m listening,” Middleton said.
Middleton said that the city has set aside $1 million for looking into what types of programs and initiatives would best help the community.
When Middleton attempted to talk with protesters about why Durham Police needs those funds, moments got tense as protesters argued the city still could have done more to help out the black community in the Bull City.
“I hope that me staying out here and me speaking up and standing in front of this building will inspire other people to come out,” Gibbs said.
CBS 17 saw several people stop by the Durham Police Department and donate tents, food, and water for the protesters throughout the day on Tuesday.
Protesters said they are prepared to spend several nights outside police headquarters until they see the changes they are demanding.