North Carolina authorities reportedly pepper-sprayed a group of peaceful demonstrators marching for voting rights.
According to News & Observer, the incident took place Saturday in Alamance County where about 200 people participated in the "I Am Change Legacy March to the Polls" in downtown Graham. The crowd began marching at the AME Church and made their way to the county courthouse, where a voting rights rally was scheduled to take place. Participants reportedly included local politicians, faith leaders, and community members, some of whom were with their children.
Demonstrators said once they arrived at the courthouse, organizers led a moment of silence for George Floyd, the 46-year-old Black man who was killed while in Minneapolis police custody. Shortly after the moment of silence, law enforcement reportedly tried to disperse the crowd and ordered them to clear the road. News & Order reports authorities also dismantled the rally's sound system before the speeches concluded and eventually began making arrests and using pepper spray on attendees.
"Why were we tear-gassed on the day we were going to the polls? Voter intimidation?" said Quencelyn Ellison, president of Alamance Alliance 4 Justice, who helped organize the march. "We've been out here doing this for several weeks, and we were peaceful. How do we get treated with such great threat?"
Melanie Mitchell, who was among Saturday's marchers, said her 5-year-old and 11-year-old children were pepper-sprayed during the crackdown.
"My 11-year-old was terrified," said Mitchell. "She doesn’t want to come down to Graham anymore."
At least a dozen people were arrested during Saturday's demonstration, including a reporter.
Scott Huffman, a North Carolina congressional candidate, was one of the political figures who participated in Saturday's demonstration. He shared his experience in a Twitter video, saying the incident further underscored the importance of voting.
"We were peacefully demonstrating. We were exercising our First Amendment rights with Black Lives Matter," he said. "What I've witnessed is what is happening all over America. This is wrong. People should be allowed to show up, exercise their rights to vote ... I urge everyone to exercise their right to vote. I can't ask you enough, if you aren't voting for me, at least use your right to vote."
You can watch additional videos from the march below.