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Greensboro pastor who led march to polls faces new felony charges
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Greensboro pastor who led march to polls faces new felony charges

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A peaceful racial justice march took a turn when police dispensed pepper spray on marchers and members of the news media. The march took place in front of the Alamance County courthouse in in Graham, North Carolina.

00:41 - Pepper spray used on marchers for the first time.

01:26 - Marchers pour water into fellow marchers eyes after being pepper sprayed

01:39 - Marchers handcuffed by police

02:27 - Alamance County Sheriff's Office tells marchers to vacate the premises

03:25 - Alamance County Sheriff's Office begins pepper spraying to push marchers away from courthouse

The Greensboro pastor who led the march to the polls in Graham that was disbanded by pepper spray on Oct. 31 now faces felony charges.

The Rev. Greg Drumwright has been accused of assault with physical injury on a law enforcement officer and obstruction of justice, both felonies, as well as resisting a public officer and causing a public disturbance, Alamance County District Attorney Sean Boone said Thursday. He had earlier been charged with a single misdemeanor, failing to disperse on a law enforcement officer's command.

The Alamance County Sheriff's Office also announced new charges against two other marchers, though no other participants were accused of felonies.

The Alamance News first reported the new charges against Drumwright, an Alamance County native who is now senior pastor at The Citadel of Praise Church & Campus Ministries in Greensboro.

Sheriff Terry Johnson told the Alamance News that the new accusations stemmed from a "long and intensive investigation" that included a review of videos showing Drumwright instigated a confrontation with a sheriff's deputy who was pushed to the ground.

The new criminal charges are retaliation, said Jason Keith, Drumwright's attorney, on Thursday.

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"I think what they're doing is they're sending a message to Drumwright to back down, to walk away, to stop putting pressure on the Graham police and the sheriff's department," he said.

Neither the sheriff nor the district attorney has released the corresponding footage, though the Sheriff's Office played some video during a press conference Nov. 2. Reporters were not given copies of the clips or images presented and were not permitted to ask questions. One of the images showed a bruise on the inside of a woman's upper arm.

More than 20 people were arrested during the "I Am Change" march that Drumwright organized in Graham on Oct. 31, including a reporter for the Alamance News.

The event garnered international media attention and led to two federal lawsuits. One lists Drumwright as a plaintiff and alleges voter intimidation and coercion by law enforcement.

Drumwright led a racially diverse group of roughly 200 people from Wayman Chapel A.M.E. Church to the historic county courthouse, where they paused for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. The gesture was meant to honor George Floyd, whose death under a Minneapolis police officer's knee helped set off a nationwide wave of protests and a renewed push for a racial reckoning.

After about nine minutes passed, Graham police told the crowd to clear the street and soon began using pepper spray on the road to get people to move faster. Among the people affected by the chemicals were children and elderly people.

The subsequent rally near the steps of the historic courthouse ended in another round of pepper spray. Sheriff's deputies walked over to the audio equipment near the edge of the stage and confiscated a generator and gas can that were forbidden under the terms of the event permit.

A sheriff's office spokeswoman said that people then began pushing deputies, and a female officer was shoved to the ground, deploying her pepper spray on the way down. Other officers also began using pepper spray.

Deputies arrested several organizers who refused to disperse, and Graham officers forced everyone out of Court Square, including bystanders, with additional pepper spray.


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