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Court Square disturbance in Graham leads to first two protest arrests of 2021

Two protesters have been charged with misdemeanor failure to disperse and for violating a city ordinance during a protest in Court Square downtown Graham.

The two arrests in downtown Graham Tuesday night came during the midst of what appears to have been a spontaneous demonstration over the fatal shooting of a black man, Andrew Brown, Jr. in Elizabeth City last Wednesday. A Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputy who had gone to Brown’s home to serve an outstanding warrant for drug charges reportedly shot Brown five times.

Graham police officers responded to the scene Tuesday night after receiving a call about a large group of protesters creating a disturbance in Court Square, according to Capt. Daniel Sisk, who is the public information officer for the Graham police department. The responding officers “determined that the demonstration was an unlawful gathering and that organizers did not file the necessary notification required to coordinate a lawful demonstration, Sisk said in a news release issued Wednesday.

Graham police charged Theresa Frances Draughn, 37, white female, of 322 Caswell Street in Burlington, and Avery Markel Harvey, 30, black male, of 704 Larry Avenue in Graham, with failing to disperse and violating a city ordinance, which state law classifies as misdemeanors. Both individuals were taken to the Alamance County jail and released on a written promise to appear in court, according to the Graham police spokesman.

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Neither Draughn nor Harvey was booked into the jail, an Alamance County detention center supervisor confirmed Wednesday afternoon for The Alamance News.

This week’s arrests follow dozens of arrests at protests in downtown Graham during the second half of 2020, after the May 25 murder of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. There are currently pending trials scheduled for approximately 30 defendants who were arrested during the 2020 protests in Graham; the Alamance County district attorney’s office has prosecuted and/or dismissed cases for more than two dozen other defendants.

Harvey is among the 30 defendants who currently have pending trials. He is currently scheduled to appear in district court in late May for a September 26 charge of disorderly conduct; an October 31 charge of resisting a public officer; and a December 13 charge of disorderly conduct, according to the court files. State law classifies both charges as misdemeanors.

Avery Markel Harvey of Graham was arrested Tuesday night for failing to disperse and violating a Graham city ordinance. It marked Harvey’s sixth arrest during various protests over the past year. Photo courtesy of Anthony Crider.

Alamance County assistant district attorney Kevin Harrison, who has been assigned to prosecute the 2020 protest cases, dismissed a September 5, 2020 misdemeanor assault charge against Harvey after the alleged victim in the case failed to appear in court to testify earlier this month. Harrison had previously dismissed an October 22, 2020 misdemeanor charge for simple affray, according to the court file. Harvey is also scheduled to appear in district court on May 14 for a traffic citation and on June 7 for a felony cocaine possession charge, according to documents on file in the county’s court system.

Meanwhile, a snapshot that depicted a Graham police corporal – pressing his thumb and index finger together while speaking with a protester in Court Square Tuesday night – has since circulated on social media websites at warp speed, with some activists widely interpreting the “OK” hand gesture as nonverbal shorthand for “white power.”

In an interview Wednesday afternoon with The Alamance News, the department’s spokesman identified the officer in the photograph as Corporal C.D. Dunnagan, whom Sisk described as a Graham High School graduate, a nearly 20-year veteran of the department, and a Hispanic.

Graham police investigators immediately reviewed footage from the body-worn cameras that officers are issued along with their uniforms and other equipment, according to the news release that Sisk issued for the police department Wednesday afternoon. “After a thorough internal review, it was determined that Corporal Dunnagan was gesturing his hands as a form of nonverbal communication, that the still image was taken out of context,” the spokesman said, “and [it] was not associated with any affiliation to a hate group.”

Officer Douglas A. Strader, who local protesters are objecting to Graham having hired since he was fired by the Greensboro police department last year, was not on duty Tuesday night, Sisk confirmed Wednesday for The Alamance News.

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