Police in downtown Raleigh took a less-assertive posture Tuesday toward the protesters who filled in downtown for the fourth night in a row with demonstrations against police brutality.
Officers in riot gear and National Guard troops in fatigues were relatively rare. Officers put more distance between themselves and demonstrators than on previous nights, some of which were marked by repeated use of tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets. And protesters were more focused on sharing personal stories of injustice and presenting demands than directly confronting police.
“To be black in America is to live a traumatic experience every single day,” said Patrice Graham, 32, addressing a crowd Tuesday night. “Why is this happening? Why has this anger welled up? Because we have to deal with it every single day.”
Police acknowledged the effort. After demonstrators at the State Capitol shouted, “kneel with us” in the afternoon, officers took a knee and were greeted with hugs. The gesture was a reference to Colin Kaepernick’s protestsa gainst police brutality when he played football in the NFL.
State Capitol Police Chief Chip Hawley said officers took a knee to “show our deep and abiding respect for the value of all human lives.”
“We hear you, and we understand your frustration,” Hawley said in an emailed statement. “We want you to know your voices and your message has not fallen on deaf ears. We understand we should be and want to be part of the solution to this problem.”
Raleigh police waiting in a line in front of the Raleigh Municipal Building did the same later in the afternoon. A group of protesters asked officers to kneel with them. Each officer took a knee for a few seconds. Some protesters shook hands with the officers. Others considered the act a publicity stunt and shouted insults.
Most of the more than 1,000 protesters who came out Tuesday went home around 8 p.m., when a citywide curfew took effect for the second night.
But about 45 minutes later, about 100 sat in Lane Street in front of the Governor’s Mansion. Police cars circulated, periodically playing a recorded message telling protesters that they were violating curfew.
The Raleigh Police Department did not make any arrests, according to a news release sent shortly after midnight.