Salisbury’s City Hall Trips Over It’s Rumor Mill and Gets Called Out by “JUSTICE IN SALISBURY, N.C.” for Being Out of Touch

Posted on May 27, 2017

Todd Paris, Staff Writer and Salisbury Attorney

♦ On May 24th a number of local Black activists and public figures and approved media (RFP was not included) were invited to be buzzed into the back of the Salisbury Police Department for a Press Conference on the A’yanna Allen murder. Announced was was a planned billboard on West Jake Alexander Boulevard would be erected to help catch the child’s killer. The billboard will show a photo of 7-year-old A’yanna along with information about the $20,000 reward being offered.  I was told by who did show up that one or more Black community members were told by a city staffer that this was private press conference and that while they were allowed to stay, they could not ask questions. I’ve never heard of a “private” press conference before, however the current city regime doesn’t abide by many recognizable laws, statutes, or show the least inclination toward transparency.

Yesterday morning, RFP received reports of a “secret” meetings planned today concerning the officer-involved Claude Ferguson Laurent, Jr. shooting.  The RFP Editor Steve Mensing and I became aware of a Facebook group titled “Justice in Salisbury”. They posted a message saying the City of Salisbury had the SBI report and called upon black leaders of the community to resist and not cooperate with the City of Salisbury. The message is posted below. Reliable sources confirmed that yesterday’s meeting was not “well attended.” Council member David Post appeared on my Facebook page and claimed the city does not have the SBI report and claimed this was “fake news.”

By early afternoon I started receiving alarming messages from multiple sources about threats to Salisbury citizens, police, and buildings.  Neither I or Editor Mensing could confirm the claims of any of these messages.  We saw them as rumors. Steve Mensing and I talked about whether I should write about these Facebook messages. What was appearing on Facebook didn’t jibe with anything our network of informants and sources told us. It didn’t jibe at all with anything we knew about the city’s Black community.  It crossed our minds that city hall, well noted for being far out of touch with many of Salisbury’s communities, was putting out this bunk.

Late yesterday afternoon a well-placed reliable source in the city reported to me that the city actually held a meeting Friday morning for black ministers, leaders, and community activists asking for help to settle down and prepare the black community for the release of the SBI report. That person told me that city hall believed credible threats existed.  Allegedly white people were to be attacked at random and that there were threats against a specific person. This source agreed with me that the City’s approach to the meeting was poor and that the city received little support.

The “Justice for Salisbury” Facebook page subsequently issued a press release which is included in its entirety below, summoning city council members, the police chief and new deputy chief and the Public Information Officer to a meeting next week and making specific demands, including, but not limited to: the release of the SBI report, information as to what the city knew and when, and an end to no-knock search warrants as a condition for the Black community’s help in solving any potential pending danger. The contact person is the President of the Salisbury-Rowan NAACP, Gemale Black.

This is a strong, forceful, peaceful, and respectable response to a council and staff that completely mishandled the Claude Ferguson Laurent, Jr. matter from day one and ignored the needs and challenges of Salisbury’s Black community and the advice of its leaders. One gentleman I talked to a month ago told me his aged mother, living on Confederate Avenue, was afraid this city leadership was going to get her house burned down.

We are at the point where the only possible remedy is for the old council incumbents, Karen Alexander, Maggie Blackwell and Brian Miller to immediately resign from City Council.

The good news is that Salisbury’s Black community and some of its leadership, at one time seemingly placed at odds with each other by the city hall’s “divide and conquer” tactics, appear to be mending fences and moving in the same direction. Folks need to vote this fall and place a council majority in power that will look after all of Salisbury’s citizens, support all of Salisbury’s neighborhoods, and move towards real and meaningful solutions for Salisbury’s monumental difficulties.

What are my predictions? City Council and staff will not cooperate and attend in any meaningful way. The “Salisbury Way” is to take over and control any public conversations so that city staff can control the message and outcome and “lead the participants” to pre-ordained decisions that support council and staff, particularly in an election year. They will probably announce with great fanfare in their print “newsletter” about their own highly acclaimed and award winning meetings.

I wish city hall had no Public Relations Officer. I wish the city council could just speak the truth to the media without that filter. I wish Council members could talk to citizens at public comment and answer questions. I wish Black and Brown citizens would vote and place at least three folks on council committed to all neighborhoods and citizens. I wish that all the secret and private meetings on important items like the Fibrant Debacle would stop. It’s much easier to govern if you tell the truth and are truly transparent, yet that’s not City Hall’s way is it?

The Message to Salisbury’s City Hall from “Justice in Salisbury”:

A Letter from Mayor Karen Alexander:

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