Raleigh city leaders considering alert system for downtown protests

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A new downtown Raleigh alert system designed to keep residents safe has some concerned it will keep people away from the area altogether.

Nearly one year after protests turned violent in the wake of George Floyd’s death in custody, Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said there’s only one way to look back on the city’s response.

“We were all caught off guard,” Baldwin said.

As the plywood comes down, business is slowly returning to a downtown area where protests have seemingly been the only constant.

“I think our business community downtown is still suffering from PTSD over what happened last summer,” Baldwin said.

That’s why she said the city is working to develop an alert system.

“You’ll be notified if there’s something that could impact your business or something happening downtown,” Baldwin said.

The system would be dependent on protesters filing a permit.

“That way, the police department gets to talk to them and they have contact information,” Baldwin said. “If things get out of hand, there’s somebody you can talk to.”

However, many people visiting downtown Raleigh seem split over the proposal.

“Protests happen all of the time,” said Kathy Bennett. “I wouldn’t want to get an alert.”

“If I’m in a hurry, it will alert me of the traffic,” added Sean Hoerter. “If me and the family are coming downtown to have dinner, we might avoid a certain area.”

“What do you consider a protest?” Bennett asked. “What do you consider worth notifying the public?”

Guidance is vague and doesn’t clearly define what would prompt an alert.

“This will be for emergencies and instances where you need to know. It won’t be abused,” Baldwin said.

The Raleigh City Council is expected to discuss the measure at its Tuesday meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. If approved, the pilot program will be revisited in three months.

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