Sheriff vows vandals ‘will be held accountable’ after Durham protests leave behind damage, graffiti

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — After a weekend protest in Durham left behind vandalism and graffti, the Durham County Sheriff said Monday that those involved “will be held accountable.”

Around 8:30 p.m. Saturday, more than 100 people starting marching to support Jacob Blake, who was shot last week by officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The group stopped for a time in front of the Durham Police Department headquarters and later continued a march.

Later, damage was seen in downtown areas.

Broken windows at the Durham County Detention Center were boarded up Sunday. The building was spray painted with graffiti Saturday night. A security officer’s vehicle was also damaged during the protests.

A total of five businesses were damaged and vandals also set a trash receptacle on fire, Durham police said.

A bridal shop, Tre Bella Bridal, was one of the businesses that was damaged.

Monday afternoon, Durham County Sheriff Clarence F. Birkhead released a statement about the vandalism.

“During this protest, laws were broken. We had vandalism to the point of spray painting words like ‘Burn It Down’ and ‘Abolish Prisons,’ on county property,” Birkhead’s statement said.

“Not only is this criminal but it is a public safety issue,” he added.

Birkhead noted that for months there have been peaceful protests in Durham — and he said that discussions about criminal justice reform would continue.

“But vandalism and lawlessness will not. Public safety will be maintained. And those who commit these acts will be held accountable,” Birkhead’s note said.

“I am truly saddened by what occurred on Saturday – not only as your sheriff but as a member of this community,” he added.

Here is the full text of the message from Durham County Sheriff Clarence F. Birkhead:

Peaceful Means “Full of Peace”

Durham, NC – (August 31, 2020)

On Saturday night, a large crowd gathered in front of the Durham County Justice Center to participate in a social justice solidarity march to protest after the Kenosha, Wisconsin police encounter involving Jacob Blake. This peaceful protest, at some point, turned to violence.

The First Amendment protects the right to conduct a peaceful public assembly and this is something that I have stood for and will always stand for. But, during this protest, laws were broken. We had vandalism to the point of spray painting words like “Burn It Down” and “Abolish Prisons,” on county property. Windows at the Durham County Detention Center were also broken during these violent acts. Not only is this criminal but it is a public safety issue. Other city and county government buildings were targeted as well. At least two downtown businesses were damaged during the protest.

In early June, Durham remained peaceful after the senseless death of George Floyd. Durham Police Chief Davis and I feel the frustration behind this and we share your pain. Throughout the summer, I have worked with Chief Davis, and her agency, to give protestors the space and time needed to safely voice widely felt frustrations.

For months, our community has stood as an example of how to peacefully protest to bring about much needed change. We wanted Durham to be seen as a model, by being different from other areas of our state and nation. Before George Floyd’s death, Durham city and county law enforcement, elected officials, community leaders and citizens have engaged in meaningful conversations about criminal justice reform which has led to changes.

The work continues. The peaceful protests will continue. Conversations will continue. Criminal justice reform will continue. But vandalism and lawlessness will not. Public safety will be maintained. And those who commit these acts will be held accountable.

I am truly saddened by what occurred on Saturday – not only as your Sheriff but as a member of this community. I will always advocate for positive change and I do not support causing damage and the attempt to tear down what we are building here in Durham. We are so much better than this.

One Community, One Durham.

Durham County Sheriff Clarence F. Birkhead

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