Durham, N.C. — On March 18, nearly 200 people gathered in front of police headquarters here to oppose the city’s proposal for a new $81 million headquarters. Organized by various community groups, the demonstration had the support of community members and city workers and caught the attention of many passing by. The crowd blocked the road in front of the police station for over two hours as speeches and chants rang out.
Last year, the Durham City Council approved a budget of $62 million for the building of a police headquarters in East Durham, where it is to encroach on working-class communities of color and signify the rapid gentrification of Durham. This year, the budget was increased as the city argues for more technology, in-house services and the concentration of multiple departments into one facility.
The protest launched a campaign to build a “Durham Beyond Policing,” which opposes the new police headquarters and calls for the $81 million to be invested in schools, jobs, social services, public transportation and many other urgent needs of the city. At the demonstration, organizers presented a people’s budget, emphasizing and prioritizing human needs over policing and cops.
The gathering of primarily young Black and Brown organizers and activists drew attention to the contradictions of the city’s budgeting. As schools are under resourced, teachers underpaid and students policed; as public housing becomes more and more inaccessible and expensive; as more people face unemployment or underemployment, the city seems to be more interested in providing world class services and facilities to cops, whose function is to police and jail working-class people.
The organizing groups SONG [Southerners On New Ground], Say Her Name Collective and Black Youth Project 100-Durham plan to present a more formal people’s budget to the City Council and organize more actions to halt the construction of the new police headquarters.