[Editor’s Note: the printed version of this story lists the date for the next march as Saturday, November 28, which was the first date Rev. Drumwright announced on last Thursday, November 19. However, subsequently, on Sunday, November 22, he changed the date to this coming Sunday, November 29. Because of early deadlines associated with getting the newspaper out for the Thanksgiving edition, the newspaper was unable to learn of the changed date, or modify its story to reflect the new date, prior to the earlier press time.]
Another march in Graham, coinciding with “Small Business Saturday” this weekend, including his threat to boycott businesses in Graham and throughout the county that don’t support his movement, are part of Rev. Gregory Drumwright’s newest plans for demonstrations in Alamance County.
Drumwright turned himself in at the Guilford County Detention Center Friday to face the four new charges filed last week by Alamance County’s sheriff’s office.
New charges filed Wednesday include two felony counts: felony obstruction of justice and felony assault on an officer, plus additional misdemeanor charges for inciting a riot and resisting, obstructing, and delaying a law enforcement officer.
Drumwright of Greensboro met with supporters at Morgantown Baptist Church in Burlington Thursday night to plan the next phases of his demonstrations in Graham.
“At this point, it’s either a march or a riot,” he said. “We’re at war,” Drumwright said.
A statement put out by the sheriff’s office, after hearing a tape of Drumwright speaking at the meeting, urged restraint by participants, encouraging “all those that attend the November 28 demonstration to refrain from harming people and property, blocking streets and intersections, and trespassing, as these actions are illegal and can result in arrest.
“While the Sheriff’s Office supports and respects an individual’s constitutional right to free speech, we continue to ask everyone to exercise those rights in a peaceful and respectful manner.”
Next march: Saturday, November 28
At the meeting, Drumwright unveiled plans to march in Graham on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (November 28), which nationally is recognized as “Small Business Saturday.” It started as a promotion of American Express to encourage shopping with small businesses across the country following the “Black Friday” sales that have increasingly become the domain of Big Box stores and online retailers immediately after Thanksgiving.
Boycott, economic pressure
But Drumwright also said Thursday night, “yes, we will boycott,” applying economic pressure to those businesses that don’t join or support his movement. “We will have to have an economic impact,” he told supporters.
“We have to target more than businesses in downtown Graham,” Drumwright told the crowd.
Among specific targets, Drumwright listed The Alamance News, which has covered Drumwright; his plans for and subsequent marches (on July 11 and Oct. 31); his arrest (at the Oct. 31 event) as well as that of Alamance News reporter Tomas Murawski; and the newest charges filed against him last week by the Alamance County sheriff’s office.
[Editor’s Note: to listen to a short excerpt (about 3½ minutes) of a recording of Drumwright’s plans, as outlined at Morgantown Baptist Church on Thursday night (Nov. 19), can be found here: https://bit.ly/3nJkcFH.]
Alamance News publisher Tom Boney, Jr. responded to the potential threats against the newspaper. “We have gone to great lengths to provide the same kind of fair, balanced, and extensive coverage of Rev. Drumwright as we do about all things local in Alamance County.”
“We have interviewed him at least twice, listened to him, reported on him, and reported on the consequences of his actions, including, very unfortunately, his apparent intentional decision not to abide by agreements he made with the Graham Police Department and the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office in setting the terms for the October 31 march and rally in Graham.
“I do not understand,” the publisher said, “why, for simply covering the news, we are now to be among those targeted by Rev. Drumwright.”
Drumwright also suggested Thursday night that some of his supporters may need to contact companies (he listed specifically Chick-fil-A and UPS, both of which were recently offered economic incentives to locate large distribution centers in Mebane) to ensure that they inquire “about equity in Alamance County.”
Drumwright: new charges represent “felony charge for activism”
As he was going through the booking process Friday in Greensboro, Drumwright narrated a video of himself which he later posted on Facebook in which he criticizes Alamance County sheriff Terry Johnson’s decision to file the additional charges.
“The sheriff in Alamance County, as a result of my activisms [sic], slapped some trumped up charges on your boy from our good trouble for change march. We was assaulted, pepper sprayed multiple times. People ended up in the hospital,” Drumwright claimed, “But I get a felony assault charge on an officer.”
He described it as a “felony charge for activism,” which he also characterized as “insane.”
Graves opposes another march during pandemic
Meanwhile, Michael Graves, a former Alamance NAACP president who has become a critic of Drumwright’s activities in Alamance County, wrote to Graham’s mayor about what he considers to be the hazards associated with allowing Saturday’s march.
“It is a public health issue for there to be a large gathering and or march,” Graves wrote in an e-mail to the mayor. “That march would pose a risk to the citizens of Graham as well as the citizens of Alamance County because of the current and escalating COVID-19 crisis that we are currently in.
“If there is a planned march,” Graves warned, “and it’s attended by people from all over the state and from people from different parts of the country, that is a risk of exposing citizens of this county and therefore escalating the COVID-19 pandemic here locally. I would think in view of public safety/health a permit would not be given.
“If [the coronavirus pandemic] that serious for us to cancel Thanksgiving dinner or limit dinner to people just in our household, I would think that the a mass gathering like this would not be wise and could be a destructive event for local citizens.”