The Salisbury “Black Lives Matter” Protest that Wasn’t: An Interview with Organizers Kavari Hillie and Dejoun Jones

Posted on July 11, 2016

Todd Paris, RFP Staff Writer and Salisbury Attorney

♦ Last Friday, Kavari Hillie, a local resident, posted on his Facebook page at 1:14 p.m. a call out to the community to gather on Main and Innes at 12:00.  (Copies of this Facebook post and others appear at the end of the article)

At 3:47 Mr. Hillie posted that Salisbury Police said there was a three day wait for a permit and “Sorry people, SMH.” The post shows Mr. Hillie complying with the law.

At 3:52 p.m. Tracy Urbina, City Council member Maggie Blackwell’s granddaughter, posted on  Mr. Hillie’s Facebook wall and offered to make some calls. At 3:54 p.m. she posted a screenshot of her conversation with “Nana” asking if we could speed up the process, in light of current events. “Nana” promised to check. At 4:05 she reported to Mr. Hillie that “Nana” was checking with the Chief of Police and City Manager.

A face-to-face interview was granted by Mr. Hillie with RFP today. Mr. Hillie, a Salisbury High School 2011 NC State Championship football stand-out, is now attending Fayetteville State University and playing football there as a walk-on. Mr. Hillie told us that last Friday he started posting about getting a demonstration together downtown on Saturday. He was surprised to receive a call from Salisbury Police Department letting him know he would have a three day wait and had  to fill out an application. He indicated he was somewhat taken aback from being contacted by police department, however he notified the potential attendees about this information.

Mr. Hillie and his friend and former Salisbury High School teammate Dejoun Jones indicated they were not officially affiliated with any other “Black Lives Matters” groups, however became concerned about police shooting of black citizens elsewhere and equally concerned about Salisbury’s gang violence. Their intent was to speak out against both issues during the demonstration in a peaceful manner.

After Salisbury Police Department’s initial contact, he was contacted by a female SPD Sergeant who indicated she had received a waiver for the “three day rule” and that if he would come down and sign the paperwork, the demonstration could proceed at noon Saturday with police supervision. Contrary to reports, they deny any $300.00 fee was mentioned and that $25.00 was quoted.

Mr. Hillie thought about the matter and looked up our local laws. The thing that disturbed Mr. Hillie and Mr. Jones was a recollection of when protestors showed up with Confederate flags at the Confederate monument without any permit and received “a pass” while a counter demonstration on Long and East Innes by black citizens a few hours later, was shut down by SPD. This did not seem fair to them. Hillie and Jones say this made them feel uncomfortable and that they did not follow through, as “the Confederates” had been allowed to express their beliefs without a permit or being cited for protesting.

On Saturday, July 9, 2016 a few hours before noon, an elevated SPD presence was noted downtown. I (Todd Paris) was dispatched to the scene and interviewed the artist who sells his drawings in front of Innes Street Drug Store. He said that some stores closed early after the city had warned folks there might be trouble. He said those staying open were doing good business. He asked about the protest and the witness said that he heard they went home when they were told there was a fee.

RFP was inundated with reports that City Police Officers were going into stores before noon and suggesting shoppers leave as there might be trouble. Unofficial, but reliable sources within the city deny this, and have informed RFP that “apparently someone at the fire department was “stirring the pot”.

RFP was provided with a photo of a man on the roof of “Pottery 101” taken before noon. Confidential sources confirmed this was a member of Salisbury Police Department’s Special Response Team (what they call SWAT now). While not confirmed, it’s common knowledge that such teams commonly field scoped rifles and military style scoped carbines. (The photo below) Sources indicate that other officers occupied other high ground. The same sources indicate that SPD was prepared to allow a peaceful demonstration, even if it occurred without a permit.

Salisbury Police Special Response Team member stationed on the roof of Pottery 101:

Immediately after RFP’s story ran and went viral, I was contacted on Facebook by two downtown merchants attacking the story and claiming that nothing had happened and that RFP’s story was false. Dozens of eyewitness came forward on my wall to indicate that the story was accurate.

Reliable sources within city and county government have told us that county emergency personnel were on stand-by and that SPD had at least twenty additional officers for back-up, should they be needed.

The FaceBook cancellation was allowed to stand by Hillie and Jones. Both said they did not want to be responsible for any harm or violence to police officers or their protestors. To their knowledge, no protestors showed up, however both were perturbed that the City told shoppers to leave Main Street stores and posted SRT shooters on buildings. Both young men were adamant they only wished a small peaceful demonstration and that there was no advertisement or larger call made out to anyone beyond their Facebook friends. Both know Tracy Urbina as she was a cheerleader at Salisbury High School and knew she was just trying to help.

For what it’s worth, Hillie and Jones are genuinely concerned about their community and their younger brothers and friends. Both young men take personal time to mentor young Black youth and stated that the City needs to do more to provide recreation for Black inner city youths in the middle to high school age bracket. Hillie said that upon his return from school, he became concerned at the numbers of school aged children cutting classes and out on the streets during school hours. Both had many good suggestions and concerns that are beyond the scope of this article.

Hillie and Jones said they intend to apply for a protest permit this week. It remains to be seen what “reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions” will be imposed by the city manager.

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