Voter suppression lawsuit filed after pepper-spraying incident

Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson is headed to court:

Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson is now a defendant in three lawsuits over the treatment of protesters in downtown Graham and he is not alone. Graham’s new police chief, Kristy Cole, is also a defendant in two of those suits, as is Alamance County. The City of Graham is still fighting at least one.

Allen v. City of Graham was filed Nov. 2 on behalf of three people and a group called Future Alamance at the now notorious police crackdown on the Oct. 31 “I am Change” march in downtown Graham.

Both County and City (Graham) leaders are responsible for this international embarrassment, and they have nobody to blame but themselves. The march was peaceful, the group had permission ahead of time, but officers started tearing down their sound system the very second (they thought) the time had expired. Just itching for a confrontation. And of course camouflage fatigues and machine guns were sported by some of Terry Johnson's little army. All that said, the voter suppression thing is going to be tough to prove:

The suit hits some of the same points as the previously reported lawsuit also filed the Monday before Election Day against the chief and sheriff by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and ACLU of North Carolina on behalf of Rev. Gregory Drumwright and others charging Sheriff Terry Johnson and Graham Police Chief Kristy Cole with violating protesters’ rights to free speech and assembly under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as rights protected under the Voting Rights Act and violating the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which was intended to protect Blacks’ voting rights after the Civil War.

Allen v. Graham was filed by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the Covington and Burling law firm representing Sylvester Allen Jr., Dejuana Bigelow, Tabatha Davis, and a group called Future Alamance. It is not focused on the organizer of the “I am Change” march Oct. 31, Drumwright, but on participants who in some cases missed their chance to register and vote on the last day of same-day registration. Other plaintiffs missed the a last chance at early voting but still had the opportunity to vote on Election Day and others just got pepper sprayed participating in a peaceful demonstration and march to the polls.

The early voting site (also County BoE headquarters) is about two blocks from Court Square. No doubt the attorneys representing the Sheriff and the City will argue those folks chose to make a "detour" on their way to vote, or could have voted before the rally/demonstration at Court Square.

While the actions of the police may have had the effect of stopping some from voting, the plaintiffs will (probably) need to demonstrate that was the intent of law enforcement. They can't claim the police stopped them in Court Square, because that was a planned stop anyway. And unless I'm mistaken, the police did not bar them from continuing to walk to the voting site. Just playing Devil's advocate here, but I don't see that voter suppression thing succeeding.

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