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Activist files federal suit over allegedly brutal treatment by deputies after commissioners meeting in 2020

A racial justice activist who had been prominent in the mass demonstrations of 2020 has filed a federal lawsuit against Alamance County’s sheriff and several of his subordinates over their alleged use of “excessive force” during a fracas that followed a county commissioners’ meeting three years ago.

Regis Kishon Green filed this federal court action on November 10 in regard to the mistreatment he insists he received in this post-meeting tumult, which ripped through Alamance County’s Historic Court House on the evening of November 16, 2020.

Green was one of five people arrested in this wake of this meeting, which the then-chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners recessed abruptly ahead of a scheduled public comment period that Green had specifically turned out for. Green’s legal complaint contends that his own arrest was not only legally unjustified but conducted in a particularly brutal manner.

“As Mr. Green tried to exit the meeting, he was tackled, arrested, handcuffed,” the lawsuit asserts. “[The] defendants’ use of force was extreme, excessive, and in violation of Mr. Green’s civil rights. Mr. Green brings this action to address these violations of law, and to obtain relief for his injuries.”

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This particular suit is actually the second that Green has filed in a little less than a month to redress the injustices that he and other activists allegedly suffered from local law enforcement authorities in the fall of 2020. That season had been a particularly fertile one for mass demonstrations – coming close on the heels of several high-profile cases of alleged police misconduct, including the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May of that year. In Alamance County, these cause célèbres were heightened by issues of purely local import, such as a brouhaha over a Confederate monument that continues to greet visitors to the county’s historic courthouse.

Among the demonstrations that grew out of this febrile environment was a “march to the polls” that Greensboro organizer, Rev. Gregory Drumwright, held in downtown Graham on October 31, 2020 – the last day of early voting before that year’s Presidential Election. Although the march itself went off relatively without a hitch, things went off the proverbial rails when members of Graham’s police force released pepper spray in a putative attempt to clear the streets ahead of a rally that was scheduled to take place on the steps of the courthouse that afternoon.

The situation only grew more volatile when the sheriff’s office decided to call off the rally because Drumwright had brought a gas-powered generator in violation of his event permit. The sheriff’s office went on to discharge its own bursts of pepper spray as the crowd became increasingly restive, and by the time the fumes had dispersed, nearly 20 people had been handcuffed and hauled off to Alamance County’s jail.

Last month, Green, who had been one of the individuals arrested after the march, lodged a proposed federal class action lawsuit in tandem with Kani Adon Bermudez-Bey, who was likewise on hand for the march to the polls. In their complaint, the two activists enumerate a long list of grievances on behalf of the march’s participants – which they lay at the feet of various local law enforcement officials, including Alamance County’s sheriff Terry Johnson and Graham’s municipal police chief Kristy Cole.

Kani Adon Bynum (above and below), who now goes by Kani Adon Bermudez-Bey, during the November 16, 2020 disruption at the county commissioners meeting in the Historic Court House.

Green’s latest court filing offers a cursory summary of the alleged outrages that occurred during the ill-fated march to the polls. But the lawsuit’s real focus is the upheaval that occurred 16 days later when Alamance County’s commissioners convened a regularly-scheduled meeting inside the historic courthouse. The commissioners, who anticipated a high turnout for those proceedings, had selected this venue over their usual meeting chambers to allow for the “social distancing” that was de rigueur at the time in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Due to these pandemic-imposed space limitations, the sheriff’s office barred entry to a large number of people who had turned out for that evening’s meeting. These disappointed audience members went on to hold a rowdy demonstration as the commissioners conducted their meeting – with a great deal of difficulty due to the external cacophony.

About an hour and a half into the meeting, the sheriff’s office took advantage of a short recess to reconfigure the in-house audience to make room for some of the people outside.

It is at this juncture that Green enters the scene, along with two fellow activists who, like him, were still smarting from the handling they got during the march to the polls. Green’s legal complaint notes that one of his friends was looking forward to airing his complaints about the march during a designated public comment period – which, at the time, the commissioners reserved for the end of their regularly-scheduled gatherings. The lawsuit nevertheless adds that these two-week old grievances were soon overshadowed by what the trio experienced inside the courthouse.

Green’s account of subsequent events is often at odds with the recollections of others, including a reporter from The Alamance News, who was on hand during the meeting. Even so, many of the plaintiff’s more egregious claims concern particularly chaotic moments when the press of people within the courtroom made it especially difficult to discern what was happening.

According to Green’s lawsuit, he and his friends had just settled down inside the courtroom when they were confronted by sheriff’s deputies who were enforcing seating protocols that the lawsuit contends were “not clear” to the newly-admitted audience members. The suit goes on to recall a particularly testy exchange with the sheriff’s then-chief deputy Cliff Parker, who allegedly told him “to calm his ass down” or Parker would “do it for him.” This purported remark was merely a sample, however, of what Green allegedly experienced when the meeting came to an abrupt halt about 40 minutes after the plaintiff and his two friends were admitted.

According to Green’s lawsuit as well as other accounts of that evening’s events, the meeting proceeded without much drama until Amy Scott Galey, the then-chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, made a sudden announcement that she and her colleagues would recess for the remainder of day and reconvene on the morning of November 18 over the Zoom teleconferencing platform.

[Story continues below other photos of Green and Bynum during 2020 demonstrations.]


 

Shon Green (in gold-colored turtleneck) on Court Square on Oct. 31 with Rev. Greg Drumwright (on far right). Kani Adon Bynum, who now goes by the name who now goes by Kani Adon Bermudez-Bey, is in the white angel costume.
Regis Kishon “Shon” Green before his first arrest later on October 31, 2020 during a march and rally in downtown Graham. Here, Graham police direct Green to get out of the street. When protesters did not respond to that directive, Graham officers used pepper spray, aimed at their feet, to get them to comply. Later sheriff’s deputies and police would use pepper spray to force protesters to disperse from the courthouse grounds when the rally was declared unlawful after a gas-powered generator and two gas cans were discovered, in violation of the permit issued to the demonstration’s organizer, Rev. Greg Drumwright of Greensboro.
Shon Green protesting on the September 30, 2020 night Kani Adon Bynum, who now goes by the name Kani Adon Bermudez-Bey, was arrested at a protest in downtown Graham.
Shon Green and another demonstrator, who were frequent racial justice protesters over the six months prior to the November 2020 election, marched beside the Graham early voting site at the corner of West Elm and Maple streets Friday before the election, saying they were “protecting” voters. Some voters, however, said they felt the demonstration was aimed at voter intimidation instead.

“No opportunity was given for public comment,” Green’s lawsuit goes on to describe this inflection point in the proceedings that evening. “Individuals who attended the October 31, 2020 march asked whether they would be permitted to speak as they wanted to discuss law enforcement’s indiscriminate use of pepper spray during the march. No answer was given. Many of [the would-be speakers] audibly voiced their dissatisfaction.”

The lawsuit goes on to recall that the audience began to file out of the courtroom – an operation that was made somewhat more difficult by the large number of sheriff’s deputies milling through the aisles. It was at this point that Green reportedly crossed paths again with Parker, who allegedly “began verbally taunting” the plaintiff as he approached the exit.

The lawsuit acknowledges that Green replied with a string of vulgarities, although he reportedly continued to make his way toward the exit without any suggestion of violence. Yet, as he got to the door, Parker allegedly “gestured toward Mr. Green” and ordered the deputies within ear shot to “Get him. F—ing get him.”

The lawsuit goes on to claim that Green’s path was blocked by an implausibly large crowd of deputies that included four who are named in the suit and 16 others whose names are unknown.

“Without warning or explanation,” the lawsuit adds, “the defendants…grabbed Mr. Green [who] was never given an order to do anything; nor was he aware that he was being arrested…At least one of the defendants…lifted Mr. Green into the air before throwing him face-first onto the floor.

“Mr. Green’s forehead hit the ground, and his arms were stuck underneath his body,” the narrative continues. “At least one of the defendants repeatedly punched Mr. Green as he lay on the ground.”

The lawsuit goes on to recall that sheriff’s deputies also arrested two other individuals as the crowd cleared out of the courthouse. Like Green, these two individuals were charged with the misdemeanor offenses of disrupting an official meeting, resisting a public officer, and disorderly conduct within a public building. The Alamance News reported at the time that their arrest warrants also offered identically-worded accounts of their alleged disorderly conduct – which entailed “interrupting a public meeting” as well as “failing to heed the commands of law enforcement officers who were emptying the courtroom” from a “meeting that had been adjourned.” But according to Green’s lawsuit, he alone was subjected to heavy handed treatment. The lawsuit also notes that, unlike the plaintiff, who is black, the other two individuals are white.

Green’s legal complaint goes on to accuse the sheriff’s office of treating him differently from the other “similarly situated” individuals “because he is black.” It also contends that the sheriff and his deputies deprived him of his First Amendment right to share his grievances with the board of commissioners, and it catalogs a list of physical and emotional injuries that he reportedly suffered at their agency’s hands.

The lawsuit ultimately asks the federal courts to declare that Green’s “forceful arrest” and “post-arrest treatment” were “contrary to law” and “amounted to an excessive use of force in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” It also asks the courts to declare that the defendants violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. The lawsuit proceeds to seek compensatory and punitive damages for Green’s injuries, payment of his legal expenses, and a jury trial to decide all of the issues raised by the suit.

 

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