Ninth Street Now Free?
For a moment Saturday afternoon, anarchy reigned on Durham's Ninth Street. What a mess.Hundreds of posters in Durham and Chapel Hill promised a street party on Ninth Street, with free food, DJs and dancing. Curiously, the posters said nothing about pepper spray, angry mobs and confrontations with police. Nor did they mention that the "party" was actually an organized political protest by regional anarchists against the perceived usurpation of public civic space.
The protest had impressive (if deceptive) publicity and a dedicated Web site (www26.brinkster.com/stparty). It also had plenty of out-of-town guests after two separate calls, titled "Attention All Southern Anarchists," were posted on the Internet. On April 1 a call was posted to a listserv for "Southern Anarchists (USA)" on mutualaid.org, a Web site providing "technology services to the radical and progressive communities." On April 6, the same post appeared on Usenet newsgroups alt.anarchism and alt.society.anarchy.
What the anarchists didn't seem to have was enough faith in the public to tell them clearly what their cause or their objectives really were. Yes, their politics were conveyed in dubious rhetoric on their Web site--for the few who might have been curious enough to check it out. But the posters everyone saw said "Street Party." Not "Anarchist Convention, with Police Baiting and Subsequent Mini-Riot to Follow."
The dancing was the first to go. Since the anarchists didn't get a permit for a street fair, several hundred people were jammed on the sidewalk when the Durham Capoeira Collective started to dance outside of the North Carolina Anglers and Outfitters shop. Moments into their performance, guerilla theater actors barged in and stopped the show, though there were no shortage of other places they could have staged their mock funeral.
The Capoeiristas left in disgust, and were replaced by several minutes of dull oratory. We were informed we had gathered to bury "boredom" and "loneliness," and to "take back" Ninth Street. We just weren't told why Ninth Street particularly needed to be taken back, or from whom.
The confused, directionless crowd milled around for several minutes, and then began to shuffle toward the corner of Perry and Ninth Streets. Repeatedly, the police tried to keep the swollen group on the sidewalks, and off the street. As the street drummer Donovan Zimmerman and others set up compelling percussion, amateur fire-eaters, dancers and costumed revelers amused the crowd.
Then came the radical act of crossing the street while at least 10 policemen looked on. Part of the crowd shuffled up another half block, crossing Ninth Street itself, and then walked back down and re-crossed the street.
The arrests started just before an unsuccessful attempt to close Ninth Street to cars. Matters escalated predictably: The group then followed cops and detainees to the parking lot where police cruisers waited. The crowd yelled chants, but black bloc-style attempts to "unarrest" the detainees simply resulted in more arrests. As a group of Radical Cheerleaders from Greensboro yelled "Resist! Resist! Raise up your fists!" the police used pepper spray to disperse the crowd surrounding their cars.
In the aftermath, a group marched down Main Street to Police Department headquarters, and then to the Durham County Jail, dwindling in number along the way.
Attempts to contact the group through its anonymous remailer address, firstname.lastname@example.org, resulted in no person willing to identify themselves as a spokesperson. But the group provided written responses to questions through e-mail signed with a PGP authentication key.
In that e-mail, an anonymous spokesperson admitted that the group never attempted to get a permit for their protest: "We do not respect armed authority running a society in which people will be beaten if they don't ask permission to use PUBLIC spaces."
The spokesperson went on to write, "Our streets should be safe for parties, not just safe for cops and cars. Ninth Street would have been a wonderfully safe and enjoyable atmosphere without the presence of armed men who felt they had the RESPONSIBILITY to assault and forcibly remove party-goers."
The anonymous spokesperson concluded, "We wanted the party to be in the street, because we want to reclaim the streets for public, celebratory and freedom-loving interactions. It would not have been an act of reclamation to take a park and make it festive. The point is that the streets have been stolen from the public and monopolized by automobiles, money and armed brutalizers in uniforms. We wanted to change all of that. At least for a few hours."
When interviewed, Kieran Ionescu, one of the arrested protesters, said, "Everything would have been fine. We would have gone there and done our thing and partied for a few hours, until the cops started arresting people. That's when everything went to shit."
"We weren't even going to close [Ninth Street] down," Ionescu said. "We were going to detour traffic around, you know? If we went there and could have hung out for a few hours without them like beating people up and arresting people then it would have been completely fine. We would have cleaned all our shit up and we would have left."
Not so, according to Capt. Terry Mangum of Durham's 5th District, who credited the protest to a group called "Bikerowdies" out of California. "I think some of the individuals came there with the intent to be arrested," Mangum said, referring to papers found in the police transport vehicle afterward with numbers for protesters to call and instructions for them to follow after being arrested.
The group's anonymous e-mail claimed at least seven people were injured. One person allegedly suffered body scrapes and a serious wrist injury from being "dropped to the pavement from four feet in the air, shoved into briar bushes, and otherwise dragged around." A woman was said to have suffered chest scrapes and hand cuts "from being thrown around in the briar bushes by police."
The e-mail alleged another protester "was slammed head first into the pavement and received head injuries as a result," while another woman sustained hand injuries from being "shoved to the ground." Another protester was said to have sustained chest, neck and shoulder injuries from having "their head shoved to the curb," while another person "received bruises when trying to recover the eyeglasses that had been shattered by a woman's face being shoved to the ground."
Yet another protester was said to have been "tackled to the ground, had his shirt torn to shreds and was otherwise bloodied as a result of the 'arrest.'"
All in all, a high price to pay for not getting a street fair permit.
Will We Ever Know Where Bunkey Really Lives?
Bunkey Morgan says he hasn't done anything wrong by declaring that a house in District 4 is his legal residence, and the Chatham County Board of Elections decided April 16 to let him say it under oath. Board members agreed to schedule a full hearing on the question of Morgan's residency raised by county resident Nancy Brown. The hearing will likely be set for sometime in the next month."I would like to have the candidate state under oath that he is a resident of the precinct," said elections board member Roger Gerber, indicating that would convince him of Morgan's eligibility for the District 4 seat on the Chatham County Commissioners. The three board members voted unanimously to hold a full hearing on the residency issue, but did not set a specific date.
Morgan, a Republican who changed his party affiliation to Democrat and his official address from District 1 to District 4 to run in this year's primary, provided the elections boards with documents he says prove the house qualifies as his residence under election laws.
Morgan gave the board copies of insurance and electric bills for the house at 2134 Silk Hope-Lindley Mill Road, the address he listed when he registered to run for commissioner in February. The electric bill, mailed to Morgan's Siler City post office box, shows a $26.68 charge for the period from Jan. 17 to Feb. 14, 2002--the first 30 days that Morgan had an account at that house.
Brown, a supporter of Gary Phillips, the incumbent Morgan is challenging, alleges that Morgan is ineligible to run in District 4 because he still lives in Apex, at the address he used when he ran for commissioner as a Republican in District 1 two years ago. (Chatham Commissioners are elected by all county voters but must live in the district they represent.) Brown submitted as evidence newspaper articles quoting Morgan as saying he lives "lots of places" and a letter from a neighbor of the Silk Hope house, stating that the house was empty and deserted from September to December. Brown also submitted electric company information that there was no service at the Silk Hope house from October until January.
After agreeing to hold a hearing on residency, board members voted unanimously to dismiss the second part of Brown's complaint alleging Morgan accepted an improper campaign contribution from Bobby Stott. Stott, Morgan's lifelong friend and just-retired aide to U.S. Rep. David Price, bought the Silk Hope house from Morgan in December. Morgan's family had purchased the house and 30 acres on Silk Hope-Lindley Mill Road in September 2001 for $154,000 after the house had been advertised at $115,000, according to the Triangle Multiple Listing Service real estate database.
Stott paid $187,000 for the house and 30 acres just three months later. Morgan says now he rents the house "on a handshake" rather than a formal lease, and says he sold the house to Stott as "an investment opportunity" for his friend. Brown and Democracy South, a nonpartisan group that studies the influence of money in politics, have alleged that the $33,000 profit is a veiled campaign contribution.
After the April 16 hearing, Brown said she planned to appeal the local board's dismissal to the state board of elections.
--Jennifer Strom Easley Avoided
You may have read about Edward Lemons in the last few days or seen him on television. Lemons, 34, is an inmate at Central Prison, sentenced to death for the murder of two people in Wayne County. He will not be executed, however, because he is in the final stages of liver disease, and he will die within the next few weeks, perhaps in the next few days.On April 10, Lemons' attorneys asked Gov. Mike Easley to grant clemency so that he could be moved from the prison infirmary to a hospice facility, either one back home in Michigan where his family lives or, if he's too weak to travel, one in the Triangle. Easley put aside the clemency petition without acting on it. Instead, he asked Secretary of Corrections Theodis Beck to decide where Lemons should die. A state law allows Beck to release any prisoner to palliative care if he is terminally ill, will die within a year and poses no danger to society; "and only after consultation with any victims or victims' families."
In Lemons' case, family members of the two victims want him to die in prison.
A week later, there's no word from Beck, but Lemons' condition is clearly worsening, according to Margaret Lumsden, one of his lawyers. "We have no idea how much time he has left, but we don't think it's very much," she says. Lemons was put on Central Prison's "Seriously Ill" list April 16, which means he is "very near death."
Easley, however, does not have to wait on Beck. Here's the case Lumsden and partner Mike Unti are making: Lemons did not kill either victim. They were trying to buy drugs; they were kidnapped by Lemons' cousin and the cousin's friend, both of whom had long criminal records; the cousin and his friend, after stopping to pick up Lemons, robbed the two and then killed them. Lemons was visiting his cousin's family from out of town. His only prior crime was for shoplifting.
The Wayne County District Attorney tried the three defendants separately. Lemons' trial was first, and he was portrayed as the ringleader. Since then, however, the cousin confessed to shooting one of the victims and said his friend shot the other one; the district attorney now says it's likely that Lemons was not part of the kidnapping and did not shoot anyone.
"This is different from the usual clemency petition," Lumsden points out. "Usually, you have an execution date set, and the decision can come any time before. We don't have that here. It was March 26 when Edward's doctor told me he had one month to live, maybe two. At first, he said 4-6 weeks. We're running out of time."
Sweet T and Nicotine: The Health & Wellness Commission
A NEW SHOW STARRING ...
Beverly Perdue as "The Lieutenant Governor"
with Ashley Forte as "The Youth"
and Wade Hampton as "The Survivor"
Plus--a cameo by Mike Easley as "The Governor"
Will the state of North Carolina ever spend any money to prevent smoking? Will Beverly Perdue ever be governor? Just two of the stories that drive the continuing drama over the actions of the state Health and Wellness Trust Fund Commission that we call: Sweet T and Nicotine.
PREVIOUSLY: North Carolina got a sweet $4.6 billion to spend from the national tobacco settlement. Health groups thought it was for attacking tobacco addiction. But up at the State Capitol, the political professionals gave most of the money to tobacco's friends. And when a Health and Wellness Commission finally got set up, it handed $35 million a year to the drug companies for senior citizens' prescriptions. Would smoking prevention be left out completely?
EPISODE ONE: Enter Beverly Perdue. The critics agree, she plays The Lieutenant Governor to a T. As chair of the Health and Wellness Commission, Perdue is in North Raleigh to convene the first of a series of "town meetings" on the topic, "Teen Tobacco Use Prevention." Perdue made sure the commission spent its money on drugs, assuring that it would not lead the fight against teen tobacco use. But this does not stop her--as the television cameras arrive--from taking up the cause of teen tobacco use prevention. "We are absolutely committed to funding programs which will make a difference in preventing teens from using tobacco products in our state," Perdue says.
Only 50 folks show up from the health groups, and their mood is sullen. They think the $5 million a year Perdue is promising for smoking prevention is a pittance, but they don't say much for fear of losing even that. Despite the best efforts of WRAL-TV anchor David Crabtree, who emcees, the "town meeting" lasts less than an hour.
EPISODE TWO: Ashley Forte radiates on the screen as The Youth. A junior at Southern High School in Durham, she's one of the leaders of "?Y," a student-led anti-smoking group. Rather than tug on students' sleeves about lighting up, "?Y" presents them with the facts: Smoking is highly addictive; 9 out of 10 adult smokers take it up before age 18; tobacco industry advertising is designed to hook you when you're young; 3 million kids age 12-17 are hooked today.
"?Y" is collecting thousands of cigarette ads, categorizing them according to their pitch (sex, glamour, sports, minorities), and mailing them back to their sponsors stamped: "North Carolina Youth Reject Your Tobacco Ads." As two dozen students do this work to the hip-hop beat of Jagged Edge, The Youth has her own rap about killers, fat wads of cash and who's really bad that she thinks would be great as a public service ad: "Those hip-hop guys can brag all they want about killing people," it ends. "The tobacco industry makes a product that kills 1,200 people in the United States every day."
EPISODE THREE: The atmosphere in Greensboro is tense. Health groups--like the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association--are backing The Youth: They want the $5 million spent on programs, like "?Y," that are run by students, for students. The North Carolina PTA agrees. Other states using tobacco settlement money this way have seen teen smoking rates drop. But when the commission's tobacco prevention task force meets, The Lieutenant Governor's staff has "edited" their plan. The "wills" have been changed to "mays," and the commission will have "maximum flexibility" to decide how to spread the $5 million around--plus now there's another $1.2 million for "media."
Enter The Lieutenant Governor's spokesman, the affable Derek Chernow. Isn't Perdue trying to have it both ways, presenting herself as an anti-smoking leader while resisting everything the health groups want? "People need to realize that this is a first step," he says. "It's the most this state has ever spent on teen smoking cessation."
EPISODE FOUR: Wade Hampton is The Survivor. He makes a dramatic entrance, with his fingers over the hole in his throat where his windpipe used to be. "I'm living proof," he croaks, "that cigarettes can kill ya."
The "?Y" crowd giggles nervously. Yes, it's a joke. But The Survivor's part is dead serious. He started smoking when he was 16. He quit 31 years later when he was diagnosed with cancer. Now he's president of GASP (Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution), traveling from school to school to tell students that Big Tobacco is their mortal enemy--and the politicians are with Big T, not them. "They're sitting around now, payin' lip service, playin' the media, but the cards aren't on the table," The Survivor says, of Easley and Perdue. "They're gonna take the $5 million (now $6 million) and disperse it all over the state to do nothin'."
EPISODE FIVE: The health groups are meeting, trying to figure out a way to get the Health and Wellness Commission to listen to them. The commission is about to pass Perdue's $35 million a year drug plan. Two members speak up for delaying the vote until the concerns of advocates can be addressed, but are ignored. The plan passes with only one dissenting vote.
EPISODE SIX (IT'S EXTRA GOOD FOR SWEEPS WEEK): Tune in as The Governor, played by Mike Easley, "seizes" $60 million in tobacco settlement funds to plug the state's $1 billion budget shortfall. No problem, says Jim Davis, who joins the cast as the Health and Wellness Commission's new executive director. It just means smoking prevention will get $6.2 million for two years, not three years. Huh? Perdue adds to the mystery. "We all fully understand the dire fiscal situation facing our state," she says, but "we can't afford to lose any more ground" on health issues. Stay tuned for more on the next governor's race--oh, and smoking prevention, too.
Senate Candidates As Stock Characters
Dan Blue keeps trying to agitate his opponents into more debates in their race for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. Blue wants to argue weekly until the primary. He says after the primary, "I'll ask the Republican to debate me, too."That line got him a chuckle at UNC-Chapel Hill's law school recently, where Blue was gathered in a face-off with fellow candidates Cynthia Brown and Elaine Marshall, who both said they were game for more debates; and Erskine Bowles, who pointedly ignored Blue's challenge.
As the 75-minute debate wore on, the foursome addressed questions about nuclear power, NAFTA, terrorism, gay/lesbian rights, the death penalty, tobacco allotments and the federal budget. But despite the wide variety of topics, the campaign dogma surrounding each answer took on a remarkable repetition.
So maybe Blue could get his wish this way. He could program four wind-up talking dolls, one each in the likeness of the four front-runners (yes, there are more than four Democrats in the race, though you couldn't tell it by the media coverage) and set them in front of each other once a week. If the law school debate was any indication, the conversation would go something like this:
Blue: I am the only candidate with 22 years of experience in state government.
Bowles: When I was President Clinton's chief of staff, we balanced the budget.
Brown: Government is ignoring the needs of working people.
Marshall: I grew up on a farm.
Blue: I grew up on a farm. And I picked 'bacca as a child in Robeson County.
Bowles: I've spent weeks locked up in a conference room with Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott.
Brown: We need a living wage. Single-payer health care. Campaign finance reform.
Marshall: When I ran for N.C. Secretary of State, I took on a NASCAR racing legend. I wasn't afraid of King Richard, and I'm not afraid of Queen Elizabeth.
Blue: This campaign should not be about slick 30-second TV spots, Erskine.
Bowles: I was at the Mideast peace talks at the Wye River Plantation and Camp David.
Brown: Close corporate loopholes that further enrich the wealthy. Abolish the death penalty.
Marshall: I would not have voted for NAFTA if I was in the Senate then, even if the White House Chief of Staff came around twisting my arm, Erskine.
Of course, this puppet show would need some props, including a supporting cast of characters to portray the audience (at least half of them cheerful, clean-cut and wearing Erskine Bowles stickers). Not to mention TV cameras and newspaper reporters, dutifully recording every word of the script.
Send all digs, ribs, jabs, barbs and tips to: email@example.com or call David Madison at 286-1972 ext. 154.
Trotline is illustrated by V.C. Rogers.