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December 11, 2020

Police Violence in Graham, N.C., on the Last Day of Early Voting and Same-Day Registration  Violated Constitutional Rights, Voting Rights Act and the Klan Act of 1871  

(Graham, N.C.) –  In a new court filing today, groups leading the October 31 ‘I Am Change’ march to the Polls in Graham, N.C., which was disrupted by police violence, amended their complaint in federal court. 

The amended complaint in Justice for the Next Generation et. al v. Johnson, et al. urges the court to prohibit officials from using pepper spray to disperse peaceful protestors and adds additional plaintiffs to the case. The amended complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the ACLU of North Carolina, and attorneys Jason Keith and Ben Crump. 

“The right to assemble is the cornerstone of our democracy, and we will continue to fight against unconstitutional and unlawful attacks on this right,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The actions of the police officers were intended to cause harm and suppress the speech and right to assembly of people exercising their constitutionally protected rights. The court must rule against the use of pepper spray to disperse on peaceful protestors and protect the constitutional rights of these marchers.”  

The amended complaint adds additional plaintiffs to the case, including: Alamance Alliance for Justice, Quenclyn Ellison, Melanie Mitchell, Faith Cook, Janet Nesbitt, Ernestine Lewis Ward, Edith Ward, Avery Harvey, and Ashley Batten. Ms. Ellison and Ms. Mitchell also bring the case on behalf of their minor children, who were also pepper-sprayed by police. Justice for the Next Generation, Reverend Gregory Drumright, and Edith Ann Jones remain plaintiffs in the case. 

“Alamance Alliance for Justice believes it is vital that we be part of this litigation,” said Quenclyn Ellison, president of the racial justice community organization. “To see the efforts, we have put into safely and peacefully organizing and demonstrating to exercise our rights to free speech, assembly, and to vote, attacked with such excessive force by law enforcement is truly disheartening. We are grateful for the chance to stand with our allies and our neighbors to seek justice and vindicate our constitutional rights.” 

The amended complaint reiterates the original assertion that the acts of police violence against peaceful marchers on the last day of Early Voting violate the First and Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, the Voting Rights Act, and The Klan Act of 1871, which prohibits violence, intimidation, and harassment of anyone attempting to exercise their right to vote. 

“It is unacceptable for people peacefully marching to the polls to be met with police violence,” Kristi Graunke, legal director for the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation. “The use of chemical weapons on peaceful marchers, including children, is abhorrent, and we are hopeful that the court will recognize the need to prevent this type of violence from happening again.”  

Read the amended complaint here.