Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
The Greensboro News & Record on a get-out-the-vote rally in North Carolina that ended with police pepper-spraying and arresting participants:
In the midst of a tensely contested presidential campaign in a deeply divided country that is still struggling to cope with a deadly pandemic, we could have done without what happened in Graham on Saturday.
Police and sheriff’s deputies used a “a pepper spray fogger” on a group of marchers to the polls that included children and elderly persons.
Police have defended their decision to disperse the march, led by Greensboro minister and activist Greg Drumwright, during speeches about justice and voting rights at the Alamance County Courthouse.
At a news conference on Monday, a spokeswoman for the Alamance Sheriff’s Office said use of a gas generator at the rally to power a sound system posed a safety hazard and violated the terms of the permit for the march.
An officer was assaulted, the spokeswoman said, when deputies attempted to disconnect the sound equipment. Officers used more pepper spray when protesters began to shove them, she said.
But this wasn’t the first time pepper spray had been used during the march. Officers earlier had used the fogger to move demonstrators out of the street onto the sidewalk.
The crowd had just observed eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence to honor the memory of George Floyd, who died in May after being pinned to the ground for that amount of time by a Minneapolis police officer.
The painful irony that an overuse of police force followed that particular moment probably wasn’t lost on the protesters, who included members of Floyd’s family.
Experts question the response as unnecessarily harsh and say it violates generally accepted standards and practices for handling demonstrations.
John Noakes, a professor of sociology, anthropology and criminal justice at Arcadia University in Pennsylvania, called it “stunning.” “It flies in the face of best practices,” Noakes told The (Raleigh) News & Observer.
Noted Edward Maguire, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Arizona State University who is the author of a police guidebook for handling demonstrations: “Short of property damage or violence, police really need to be much more restrained in those kinds of moments.”
As for direct accountability for what occurred Saturday, there was none. Neither Alamance Sheriff Terry Johnson nor Graham Police Chief Kristy Cole appeared at the news conference — where no questions from the floor were taken.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and ACLU of North Carolina filed a federal suit Monday against both the Alamance Sheriff’s Office and the Graham Police Department for violating the marchers’ right to free speech and assembly.
Adding to the concerns over the police response Saturday was the context and the backdrop: A Confederate statue at the Alamance Courthouse has been the site of previous protests, as well as counter protests from statue supporters.
On Saturday, hecklers shouted for the marches to “get off the street” and a pickup truck carrying three Trump 2020 flags drove slowly around the courthouse during the rally.
As for Drumwright, who was among 15 people arrested Saturday, he is clearly committed to his beliefs but hardly seems like a violent agitator.
You may remember him from protests earlier this year at the 311 Speedway in Stokes County, which not only had defied state restrictions on large gatherings in a pandemic but had offered a “Bubba rope” for sale online. A noose noose had been found in Black NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace’s garage at Talladega Superspeedway.
That protest occurred even as men with guns walked the perimeter of the race track. Yet the day ended with Drumwright speaking to the speedway’s owner, Mike Fulp, who apologized tearfully for the rope promotion.
Meanwhile, as these words are being written, we don’t know the outcome of Tuesday’s elections. We may not know for a while.
But we are, like you, aware of widespread fears that violence could follow.
Social media rumors, irresponsible rhetoric (some, unfortunately, from the White House) and rising gun sales are all troubling signs.
We hope and pray that won’t happen — that the vast majority Americans will continue to respect the peaceful transfer of power via the ballot, whichever candidate wins.
That we can agree to disagree without resorting to violence, or being threatened by it.
And that law enforcement will be a part of the solution, not the problem.
Winston Salem-Journal on the U.S. presidential election:
There’s a little uncertainty as we go to press, not yet knowing the outcome of any election — and not knowing if we’ll even know the outcome of any election by the time you’re reading this. But that’s part of the process.
In most election years, results are called when enough votes have been tallied that it appears that no other outcome is possible. Despite President Trump’s expectations, it’s not unusual for ballots to still be counted for days or weeks after Election Day. In fact, it’s the norm. Every great now and then a reversal takes place after all the votes are tallied, but that’s unusual.
But we can know a few peripheral matters with a high degree of confidence. And because of that, because some aspects of the American character have not changed, we feel comfortable making these remarks:
Thank you to the poll judges and poll workers. They gave their precious time and energy to go through training, then to sit or stand for hours at a time, not for a partisan cause, but so that every American could have a voice and a choice. And this year, they did so at risk of exposure to a deadly virus — and while rumors swirled of possible disruptions or even violence at polling sites. No doubt some had to face down maskless skeptics who didn’t care that they might infect others.
Thank you to the law enforcement officials who stood by the polls to keep an eye out because of the possibility of trouble.
Thank you to the postal workers who did their best to deliver ballots in a timely fashion, even after policies were put in place that slowed the delivery of mail. Following the election, questions will still need to be answered about the motive behind those policies.
Win or lose, thank you to the candidates who put themselves forward in hopes of serving our country. Some did so despite the risk to their reputations coming from purposeful misrepresentation of their policies. Political ads polluted the airwaves like never before this year, and while the wise ignored them, not everybody is wise.
Thank you to all the volunteers who gave their time and energy to political campaigns. Philosophies differ, but everyone who got involved did so because they believe in the American system of government.
Thank you to Department of Defense officials and others who increased protections to prevent foreign election interference this year.
And thank you to the visionaries who will look at this year’s election and figure out ways to make the next election easier, more inclusive and more certain. The greatest nation on Earth shouldn’t be running elections as if it’s the 19th century.
Some aspects of voting this year fed a swampland like never before, with ignorant and incredible claims of voter fraud, with efforts to purge millions of eligible voters from the rolls and with visibly gerrymandered districts. We still expect legal challenges intended to disqualify legitimate ballots. One major political party worked hard this year to tally every legitimate vote and another major political party worked hard to prevent legitimate votes from being tallied. In a free country, voter suppression should not be an acceptable election strategy.
Whatever the outcome, combining local, state and national contests, there should be something to please and comfort most every voter. And it would do us credit for all victors to be thinking about how to include everyone, in a positive way, as we move forward. Our country is dangerously divided; every single elected official has a responsibility to begin to mend the weakened bonds. We say to them: You got the job; now get to work.
The Salisbury Post on a North Carolina school district holding virtual classes in the aftermath of Hurricane Zeta:
It’s worth wondering whether snow days and other weather-related cancellations are a thing of the past.
Last week, when the remnants of Hurricane Zeta brought gusty winds, rain and power outages, Rowan-Salisbury Schools moved to a “virtual day” instead of calling off classes entirely. When outages persisted Friday, there was another virtual day. True, some students probably chose not to do work, but the announcements along with pre-existing practices will make canceled classes and makeup days more rare.
Don’t believe us? How about Superintendent Lynn Moody?
“I think virtual learning on bad weather days will be always practiced in the future,” Moody said in response to a Post question. “I think it has definitely changed how we think about ‘making up snow days.’ ”
Proof of that comes via the fact that Rowan-Salisbury Schools had already embraced technology through its one-to-one technology initiative and that it had experimented with virtual learning days before the COVID-19 pandemic upended methods of learning in public schools. While many students left school in March and didn’t think about learning again until August, Rowan-Salisbury Schools quickly pivoted. And it did so about as fast as anyone could hope for a district of its size, which is to also say that it pivoted faster than most public school districts.
So, when an inch of 2 of snow forces other districts to cancel classes, parents shouldn’t be surprised when a Rowan-Salisbury Schools announcement looks a lot like the one that came last week and when assignments are still due on their originally planned dates.
“Due to the predictions of inclement weather moving into our area, all students will have a remote learning day at home,” the announcement will state.
Opting for remote days for the foreseeable future would be a net positive, with students able to continue ongoing lessons. But there would be challenges — namely that technical problems will crop up, that some students don’t have the support and supervision at home to ensure they keep learning and that online learning isn’t a good solution for everyone. All three, though, are challenges that can be solved; they also are issues with which educators are contending right now.
Local public schools can make virtual days instead of canceled classes permanent by continuing their pre-existing one-to-one device commitment and looking for ways to provide resources such as internet access to students who need them. Teachers will also need continued support and advice to craft engaging lessons for students to complete on their own or in a teleconference format.
Students will be disappointed, but Rowan-Salisbury Schools Public Information Officer Rita Foil’s weather-related calls may bring news about remote learning days for the foreseeable future.