North Carolina Law Enforcement Spray ‘Pepper-Based’ Vapor on People—Including Children— Marching to Polls

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Kansas recalls license plates with a lettering combo that could be read as a racial slur … Colorado will send out $375 payment to unemployed residents … Louisville police officer sues Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend for allegedly shooting him.

Sheriff deputies and police in a North Carolina county pepper-sprayed a group of people, including children, during a Saturday march to the election polls. The “I Am Change” march in Graham, a city in Alamance County, was organized by Rev. Greg Drumwright, who leads a church in nearby Greensboro. The group, which said it was non-partisan and aimed at getting out the vote, was pepper-sprayed by law enforcement after they held a moment of silence for George Floyd, the Black man who was killed in May by a Minneapolis police officer. “My 11-year-old was terrified. She doesn’t want to come down to Graham anymore,” said Melanie Mitchell, describing how both her daughters, also including a 5-year-old, threw up after they were pepper sprayed. Police defended their actions, calling the spray “pepper-based vapor” and saying the protesters were blocking the road. “[T]he assembly reached a level of conduct that led to the rally being deemed unsafe and unlawful by unified command,” a police spokesman said. At least 12 people were arrested, including Drumwright. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, called the incident “unacceptable” on Twitter. “Peaceful demonstrators should be able to have their voices heard and voter intimidation in any form cannot be tolerated,” he wrote. [News & Observer; Washington Post]

  • In other election news: The Texas Supreme Court on Sunday rejected a Republican effort to throw out 127,000 votes in Harris County that had been cast through drive-thru polling at early voting sites. But plaintiffs are still pursuing a similar effort in federal court, with a hearing scheduled for Monday. The Texas Tribune wrote, “A rejection of the votes would constitute a monumental disenfranchisement of voters—drive-thru ballots account for about 10% of all in-person ballots cast during early voting in Harris County.” [New York Times]

RUBBER BULLET BAN | The Philadelphia City Council voted overwhelmingly Thursday to forbid the police department from using tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray on protesters. If the legislation is signed by the mayor, it would make Philadelphia the first city in the United States to ban use of “less lethal” munitions by police when responding to demonstrations. City lawmakers began reviewing police use of force in May following protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but the vote came during new unrest after city police officers fatally shot a black man whose family had sought medical assistance. [Philly Voice, WHYY]

KANSAS LICENSE PLATES | Kansas is recalling more than 800 license plates that contain lettering that could be seen as a racial slur. It is the second time in two years that the state has issued such a recall. The Department of Revenue sent letters to 828 vehicle owners whose plates have the letter combination “NGA” and asked them to return the plates or risk being ticketed for having invalid plates. “The plate combination, if read as a phrase, can be perceived to read as a racial epithet,” department spokesman Zach Fletcher wrote in an email explaining the decision. In 2018, Kansas recalled 731 plates that contained the letter combination JAP, a slur used against Japanese Americans during World War II. [Wichita Eagle]

COLORADO UNEMPLOYMENT | Colorado will issue one-time payments of $375 to thousands of state residents who were unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic. The state Department of Labor and Employment estimates as many as 435,000 people will qualify for the payments, which are being sent to people who earn under $52,000 and filed for unemployment at least once between March 15 and Oct. 24 of this year. The majority of the expected $168 million in payments will come from savings from the state’s Medicaid program, which state officials said was over-budgeted and the rest from disaster relief funds. [Denver Post]

BIKER GANG TIES | The arrest last week of the legislative director for New York Assemblyman Peter J. Abbate, Jr. revealed his association with a notorious biker gang. Joseph Brady’s double life as a co-founder of the East Coast Syndicate, a motorcycle club associated with drug use and violence, came to light after he was accused of sexual assault. Brady, considered the point person in the state legislature for New York’s public sector labor unions, was arrested on charges of sexually abusing an incapacitated 18-year-old woman at his apartment. In 2016, he filed paperwork with the New York Department of State to obtain non-profit status for his motorcycle club, which law enforcement are investigating for a recent homicide. [Times Union]

BREONNA TAYLOR | The Louisville police officer who was shot in the leg during a raid that resulted in Breonna Taylor’s death has sued her boyfriend for emotional distress, assault and battery. Louisville Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly claims in a lawsuit that he has experienced "severe trauma, mental anguish, and emotional distress" because of Kenneth Walker's actions during the raid on March 13. Mattingly was one of three officers who burst into  Taylor's apartment as part of a drug investigation. Taylor’s boyfriend, Walker, is a licensed gun owner who has said he opened fire on the officers because he thought they were intruders. He is believed to have fired the shot that struck Mattingly in the leg. Police opened fire inside the apartment and killed Taylor, who had been asleep in her bed. Taylor had no criminal record and no drugs were found in her home. Her death has inspired policing reform protests across the country. [CBS News]

Laura Maggi is the managing editor of Route Fifty and Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent.

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