RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Attorneys in the Triangle are stepping in to represent people arrested during this weekend’s protests against police brutality and racial injustices after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota while in police custody.
Damon Chetson is one of the lawyers who offered his service. He took to social media and put out a message that described him as a defense attorney willing to provide free/pro bono representation for people who were arrested in Raleigh protests.
“When I saw a protest happening and people exercising their First Amendment constitutional right, I thought it was important that people understand that if they were going to be arrested, in what my view is entirely legal activities, they should have representation,” explained Chetson.
He was downtown for the protests on Saturday. During the day he was there exercising his own constitutional right and participated in the protests outside the Wake County Courthouse. That same night Chetson came back as a legal observer.
He said Raleigh police didn’t work to deescalate the large crowds.
“Police have a difficult job to do but it is their responsibility to deescalate situations that occur in our city. People have a constitutional right to express their viewpoints in this country and to petition the government for change, that is the first amendment. Raleigh police are there to protect everybody. To protect the protesters, to protect the onlookers, and to protect the businesses. I do not believe there should be any violence at all, but I also believe that Raleigh police should behave in a measured and deescalated way and I do not believe they acted that way in some respects on Saturday evening.”
Since that evening and his offer of free representation, Chetson said his phone has been blowing up.
“Some of the feedback has come from people actually needing or potentially needing representation,” said Chetson.
“We are directing them to the appropriate people, whether it be me, whether it be other attorneys stepping up to assist. So, I’m not the only person Raleigh who cares about providing people with quality representation,” continued Chetson.
He said during these difficult times it is important for the law to be applied equally.
“If we wanted to deescalate the tension in Raleigh then it has to be done in an even-handed way. Just as you cannot have people walking around Raleigh vandalizing storefronts and committing acts of looting, you cannot have people walking around the streets with military-grade rifles, military-grade weaponry, military-grade armaments, both crimes need to be treated as a serious crime and need to be charged and have their day in court,” Chetson explained.
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman sees it differently. Her office will prosecute a number of these cases.
“ Our law-enforcement does a good job of trying to give them the opportunity to exercise their first amendment rights. I think it crosses over when there’s damage to people’s property. That’s when we have to step in and enforce the law,” said Freeman.
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