Graham’s city council meeting Tuesday night was conducted while about a half dozen protesters, led by Faith Cook with a bullhorn, chanted against the Graham police department’s hiring last year of Douglas Strader.
Strader is a former Greensboro policeman who was fired for an offense other than the one the protesters have focused on. Strader was one of eight officers on the scene in Greensboro on September 8, 2018, when Marcus Smith, who had been running in and out of traffic, died in police custody, prompting protesters’ claims that Strader is a “murderer,” despite multiple Greensboro investigations that found no officers culpable in his death.
Cook stood outside the emergency exit door from the council chambers, shouting toward the chambers, “Strader is a murderer,” and other epithets, sometimes including vulgar and obscene phrases, as well.
Two of the protesters, Cook and Amanda Perry, signed up to speak to the council during the “public comments” section at the end of the meeting.
Both initially missed their turn at the podium; when mayor Jennifer Talley called their names from the sign-up sheets, neither was present, and Talley proceeded down the list of other speakers.
When Cook and Perry came inside after their chanting, and after they had missed their turn, Talley allowed them to speak even though she’d already moved on through the list of other speakers.
Both took their time to criticize the city, city council, city manager Megan Garner, and police chief Kristy Cole.
Talley explained that under the “council-manager” form of government, the council has the authority to hire and fire only one person, the city manager, not to deal with individual city employees, such as a particular police officer.
But Cook pressed for the council to “recommend” Strader’s firing, and then tried to address Garner, who sits on the dais with the council, to elicit Garner’s response to her demand for Strader’s firing. But Talley instructed that comments were to be made to the council as a whole.
The council does not typically engage with or respond to citizens during the public comment period.
Talley finally had to call “time” on Cook, who had exceeded her four minutes at the podium.
She was followed by an even more belligerent performance by Amanda Perry who closed by thanking the council “for not listening, again.”
Both then went back outside the city hall chambers to resume their verbal protest.
Background on hiring of Douglas Strader and recent protests:
Much of settlement meeting over 2020 demonstrations in Graham focused on officer hired since then (July 22, 2022): https://alamancenews.com/in-unrelated-grievance-plaintiffs-in-federal-suit-demand-graham-fire-police-officer/
Protesters inside and outside council chambers demand firing of Graham police officer over latest actions (May 11, 2022): https://alamancenews.com/protesters-in-and-outside-graham-council-chambers-criticize-graham-police-officer-police-chief-city/
Graham police chief defends decision to hire officer fired by Greensboro Police Department (April 1, 2021): https://alamancenews.com/graham-chief-defends-hiring-policeman-fired-by-greensboro/
Statement from the Graham Police Department on hiring Douglas Strader (April 1, 2021): https://alamancenews.com/statement-from-graham-police-dept-on-hiring-of-douglas-a-strader-formerly-with-greensboro-police-dept/
Strader fired one year about shooting at fleeing vehicle; city manager denies his appeal of the firing (April 1, 2021): https://alamancenews.com/straders-decision-to-shoot-at-fleeing-vehicle-gets-him-fired/
Strader was present in Greensboro during the encounter with Marcus Smith and his subsequent death, but officers not held responsible (April 1, 2021): https://alamancenews.com/death-of-marcus-smith-in-greensboro-police-custody-tragic-but-officers-not-implicated/
See Greensboro Police Department body-cam video from the tragic encounter with Marcus Smith: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P55gefPZDVM