North Carolina communities unite against racist cop killings

Sara Blakley, mother of Dontae Sharpe, speaks at action in front of Attorney General Roy Cooper's office in Raleigh demanding justice.

Durham, N.C.

Two successive actions took place recently across North Carolina as family members and community supporters continue to press for justice in racist police and prison guard murders.

On Aug. 25, supporters gathered at the office of Wayne/Lenoir County District Attorney Matthew Delbridge in Goldsboro, N.C., to demand justice for Deriante Miller. He was shot and killed by a state trooper in Kinston, N.C., on March 27.

Supporters of Deriante Miller and Dominique Worrell converged Aug. 27 at State Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office in Raleigh to demand prosecution of those responsible for their deaths. The only eyewitness account says Miller was unarmed and shot without warning. The family still has not received the State Bureau of Investigation report for his death, released to the district attorney five weeks ago.

“My son was killed by State Trooper William Hardison five months ago, and I have heard nothing from the state,” stated Michelle Miller, mother of Deriante Miller. “Every day that goes by there is a painful hole in my heart. I need the state to do justice by my son and prosecute this killer trooper. This isn’t the first time he has killed someone. When is this going to stop?”

Trooper Hardison was responsible for the death of Clayton James, who he tasered to death in 2010. “Hardison is a butcher on the run,” stated Don Cavellini, co-chair of the Pitt County Coalition Against Racism, in a statement released after the protest.

During the Raleigh protest, Sheldon Dancy spoke out about the 2011 attack he suffered from Hardison. The trooper shocked him with a taser more than 70 times and beat on his head with a nightstick, resulting in hundreds of stitches. Dancy was left to bleed in a ditch, but he was never charged with any crime.

Dominique Worrell was a young Black woman murdered in her jail cell in Southern Correctional Institute in Troy, N.C., in 2015. As in the case of Sandra Bland, the prison cover-up story was that Worrell committed suicide. Family members don’t believe that account and have demanded release of her death certificate and a second, independent autopsy. The action at the State Attorney General’s office took place to commemorate the one-year anniversary of her August 26, 2015, death.

Worrell’s mother, Sara Blakely, and family members of Dontae Sharpe were also present at the Raleigh action. Sharpe of Greenville, N.C., received a life sentence in 1994 for a crime he did not commit.

Organizing for justice

In the wake of the police murder of Deriante Miller, family members and community formed the Kinston-Lenoir County Justice Coalition, which co-sponsored both actions. Additionally, the Pitt County Coalition Against Racism and Mothers of the Incarcerated organized the Aug. 25 event with support from Black Workers for Justice and the Durham Branch of Workers World Party.

Members of these organizations are pushing for a broad statewide campaign to target Attorney General Cooper, who is running for the North Carolina governor’s seat. Cooper is running against much-hated Gov. Pat McCrory, who is responsible for passing House Bill 2 targeting transgender people, giving major tax cuts to the wealthy, attacking voting rights, limiting increases in the minimum wage for workers and gutting many other programs, including the Racial Justice Act.

Activists don’t want to let Cooper off the hook. He has the power to prosecute the police officers and prison guards responsible for these racist deaths. Twenty-five people have been killed by police in North Carolina in 2016, including the most recent, heinous case of Deaf man Daniel Harris, 29 years old, killed by police on Aug. 18.

Dante Strobino

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Dante Strobino

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