Kenny Hardin, Salisbury City Councilman
♦ I just left the Livingstone campus after spending over an hour talking with Officers and students. I received so many calls and messages after 11pm about fighting, riots, and pepper spray being used that I drove over to the campus around midnight.
As I pulled up to the main gate area, I was met with such a sea of blue flashing lights, white high beams, flashing EMS lights, and two Fire trucks, I couldn’t see in front of me.
I walked up to the gate and spoke with a campus police officer who said a student had swung at her during the incident. I counted at least 20 Salisbury PD and Rowan County sheriff cars as I walked more inside the campus.
I passed several students complaining about being pepper sprayed. I walked up to a group of about 15 officers standing together and asked if I could assist in anyway. I was told that the fights broke out in several different locations and involved close to 100 individuals. One officer said they had to use the pepper spray for the students’ safety.
A radio call came in as I was standing there and the entire group moved down the hill in formation towards the Tubman Theater and Honors Dorm where a small angry crowd had gathered. The officers took immediate control and asked several times for the crowd to disperse. Several young people began arguing back at the Officers and would not adhere to their commands. Several of those people were identified as visitors and not students. I stood off to the side and observed. The officers were firm and authoritative, but not inciting the situation.
The incident was growing tense as the officers continued to ask the crowd to disperse. The students and visitors began to walk slowly away, but continued arguing back at the officers. I walked into the small group and began encouraging them to disperse and refrain from arguing with the officers. I talked with several students one to one as I loudly yelled for them to keep moving. I asked a group of female visitors to stop yelling at the officers and leave the campus peacefully.
At one point, a freshman student whom I had talked with as we were walking, defied a command and became unruly. Several officers rushed him, put him in handcuffs and arrested him.
The officers asked all students to return to their dorm and all visitors to sit on benches to figure out who was who. The group did not respond or adhere to the commands. I again walked through the crowd of students asking them to comply. The students eventually began to listen and order was restored to a certain degree.
I have to give the Officers and campus Security credit for the patience and restraint they showed in dealing with the students in this tense, volatile situation. Had they not showed this level of professionalism, this situation could’ve escalated very quickly.
I called my Brother Chris Sifford immediately after I arrived and kept him on the phone the entire time I was there. He shared the same level of disappointment I had as he listened to the young people.
Video: Salisbury Police and Sheriff’s Office presence at the Livingstone College Campus Unrest on Saturday Evening:
Salisbury City Councilman Kenny Hardin at the Livingstone College Homecoming Parade in Downtown Salisbury (photo by Jeff Hicks)