Reverend William Barber of the NAACP speaks to the crowd of Moral Monday protesters. (Jeff Reeves, WNCN)
RALEIGH, N.C. -
An undercover officer
attended two meetings of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP held to
organize mass protests of the Republican-led state legislature, the
city police chief confirmed late Monday.
Deck-Brown released a statement confirming the surveillance hours after
The Associated Press reported it based on Raleigh City Council member
Mary-Ann Baldwin' account.
The officer attended on May 6 and 13
and only was at the portions that were open to the media and members of
the public to determine how many people were expecting to be arrested so
the department could be ready, Deck-Brown said in a news release.
Baldwin said city officials confirmed the surveillance to her following inquiries by AP.
was distressed to learn about this," said Baldwin, chairwoman of the
council's Law and Public Safety Committee. "We were reluctant to even be
involved because we don't think arresting people for speaking their
minds is the right thing to do."
Baldwin said she was told Raleigh
officers attended the NAACP planning events to help ensure public
safety and security, which Deck-Brown confirmed in her emailed
statement, saying the officer was there to gather information "to allow
the department to gauge the sufficiency of the logistical support, such
as transport vehicles, available at the Legislative Building."
just didn't want there to be any major issues they were not prepared
for," Baldwin said. "They wanted to make sure things went smoothly."
NAACP president William Barber said he is concerned Raleigh police
chose to conduct surveillance at the planning meetings, which were
typically held in the sanctuary of a nearby church. He stressed the
protesters were non-violent and said they had nothing to hide. If the
officers had worn uniforms or introduced themselves, they would have
been welcomed, Barber said.
"It's not like we were planning a bank heist," he said. "Mostly, what we did was pray and sing."
said when the department realized that accurate information could be
obtained without attending the meetings, the officer stopped going.
The revelations about surveillance could have potential legal implications for hundreds of pending cases.
940 people were arrested at the weekly Moral Monday rallies opposing
GOP-backed policies that protesters said damaged public education,
voting rights and working people. Raleigh Police provided additional
manpower to the N.C. General Assembly Police during the protests, with city officers often escorting arrestees on their way to jail.
weekly planning meetings were announced in advance and generally open
to the public. However, there were portions of the meetings during which
news reporters were asked to leave so protesters could receive
information from volunteer lawyers about what to expect if they were
arrested. Barber said he is worried if police officers and prosecutors
are privy to the legal advice provided to the protesters that might have
violated attorney-client privilege.
Deck-Brown said the plainclothes officer only attended public parts of the meeting.
Irv Joyner, a professor at the N.C.
Central University School of Law representing several of the protesters
at trial, said he and other defense lawyers are likely to seek copies
of any police surveillance reports through discovery motions.
surveillance first came to light Friday at the trial of Saladin Muammad,
a U.S. Army veteran and labor activist arrested on May 13 while at a
Moral Monday protest.
General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver
testified he received advance intelligence reports from another law
enforcement agency about the protesters' plans. Asked during in a break
which agency had provided him the reports, Weaver said he could not
discuss operational details.
During her cross examination of
Muammad, Assistant District Attorney Mary Elizabeth Wilson asked the
protester a series of questions suggesting she had some knowledge of
what occurred in the NAACP meetings. The prosecutor asked Muammad if he
had volunteered to be arrested at the planning meeting and whether he
had signed a waiver provided by the NAACP warning he might face arrest.
a judge found Mummad guilty of misdemeanor charges for trespassing,
failing to disperse and violating building rules, a reporter asked
Wilson how she knew what happened at the NAACP meetings. She declined to
answer, citing the scores of pending criminal cases.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane said Monday she could not discuss the details of
specific police operations, but expressed confidence the city's officers
followed the law.
"The Raleigh Police Department uses a number of
lawful means to gather information to protect the safety of the
public," McFarlane said. "They always do that in a way that is
respectful of the individual's Constitutional rights."