By Tammy Grubb
The Carrboro Board of Aldermen has agreed to hold a future discussion about Saturday's "guerrilla gardening" demonstration after some participants complained about the Police Department’s response.
The event was held at the corner of Weaver and North Greensboro streets to protest a proposal to build a new CVS store there. During the protest, group members lobbed “seed bombs” of clay, dirt and wildflower seeds over the fence, planted other herbs and flowers, and hung fabric chains and artwork from the trees and fence.
Police Chief Carolyn Hutchison said 22 officers patrolled the block on foot and in vehicles during the event. Officers also videotaped the event and took photos, both of the participants and observers at the scene.
Elizabeth Reeves, a member of Carrboro Commune, said the group's event was “an exciting and filling experience,” but criticized the Police Department’s “tactics of intimidation.”
“I say that this is menacing because law enforcement in the United States has a dark history of using footage to single out and target activists for arrest and undermine social movements. We have no idea why this footage is being shot, with whom it is being shared and for what purpose,” she said.
Police charged 31-year-old Vincent Michael Gonzalez shortly after the event began with impeding traffic, a misdemeanor. Officers said Gonzalez was drawing in the westbound lane of West Weaver Street with chalk after being asked several times to move to the sidewalk. He was taken to the magistrate in Hillsborough before being released on a written promise to appear in court. As a condition of his bond, he also must stay at least 100 feet from the West Weaver-North Greensboro street intersection until otherwise directed by a judge.
Alderwoman Jacquie Gist said there can be consequences when people choose to engage in civil disobedience. The group should consider talking with police Chief Carolyn Hutchison about their concerns, she and some of the aldermen said.
“Encouraging citizens to go talk to Chief Hutchison is not the same as saying that we’re not going to talk to Chief Hutchison,” Gist said. “I do know that she’s a very open person, who cares very deeply about this community, and if citizens are having issues, I think she would be very amendable to talk to people about what happened. I think she would find that enlightening and these other parties may, too.”
The aldermen agreed to talk with both groups about what happened and discuss the issue at a future meeting.
We are continuing to report this story for a print edition later this week. If you would like to speak with a reporter, please contact Tammy Grubb at 336-380-1325 or Mark Schultz at 932-2003.