BLM March in Pembroke
By Zachary Young, Editor-in-Chief
The Pembroke “Black Lives Matter” march in late June resulted in one arrest and various citations. Personal accounts and social media images document some of the events that transpired during the march.
Dr. Mary Ann Jacobs, a Lumbee Indian, and the UNCP American Indian Studies Department Chair, participated and reported to a faculty discussion group that the counter-protesters outnumbered the 150 or so BLM marchers. Jacobs said the opposing crowd threw water bottles and beer cans at the marchers and used the N-word.
“They tried their best to shout us down and one or two made more noise with their motorcycles, slowing down to keep pace with the marchers, but they didn't make anyone give up. One guy was there with some sort of assault rifle in a sling on his shoulder,” said Jacobs. She later found out on Facebook that he was a non-Indian from out of town.
“The reaction that I received from some of the townspeople was appalling. I had objects thrown at me. I was called racial slurs and almost got physically assaulted by one of the counter-protestors," said UNCP sophomore Anthony Mungo, who marched and voiced his disappointment in the treatment of the protestors.
Danny Hunt, 56, of Pembroke was charged by the Pembroke Police Department on July 14 for his actions during the counter-protest. Hunt is charged with assault on a female, assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. In addition to the arrest of Hunt, several individuals were charged with violations of the open container and noise ordinances and disorderly conduct.
Robeson County Sheriff Burnis Wilkins condemned the counter-protesters’ behavior and said that social change should extend beyond just police reform.
“I was quite disturbed after reviewing the actions of some in attendance of the planned peaceful protest. While I support the efforts of the protestors, I stand against those that were trying to bring about harm. We in law enforcement understand the message and realize that some change may be needed but change is needed across the board and not just within the law enforcement community,” said Wilkins.
The day after the protest, the Town of Pembroke issued an official statement on its website. “The Town supports nonviolent dialogue that leads to understanding. We support real change in our society that makes all voices heard, regardless of the color of their skin. What we do not support is violence, racism, harassment, or threatening action against any member of our community—whether they be a lifelong resident or a student.” The letter also addressed UNCP students, “We want our students at UNCP to know we hear you, we value you, and you are a vibrant part of the Town of Pembroke.”
In addition to students, BLM marchers included UNCP faculty, staff, alumni, community members and Chancellor Robin Cummings. In all, approximately 150 individuals marched to take a stance against police brutality.
“Without hesitation, UNCP administration fully supported the purpose of yesterday’s march because we know with certainty that our students’ intentions are to seek change in an unjust world,” Cummings wrote in an email addressed to the UNCP community. He also wrote the marchers honored the lives and sacrifice of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many more. “Those who harassed them [UNCP marchers] honored no one, least of all themselves,” Cummings wrote. He suggested that many of the counter-protestors were outsiders who do not necessarily belong to the area and were “encouraged and organized by irresponsible activity.” Cummings expressed UNCP’s support for the students and marchers who were blatantly attacked and violated while exercising their First Amendment right to assemble.
“There were clearly a lot of Native Americans there who are from the area. If they live in the town, no one knows, but it was very clear that the crowd gathered and riding through were predominantly Native American. Those African American students saw what they saw and everyone else who was there did too. I don't believe in spin; some Native Americans have a problem with Black people,” Jacobs said concerning race relations among the Native Americans and Black residents in Robeson County.
Dr. Abigail Mann, Faculty Senate Chair at UNCP, expressed in an email that “As a faculty, we are appalled by the verbal and physical threats our students faced as they peacefully assemble… We affirm that Black lives matter. We know that one of this campus’ great strengths is its diversity and we must continue to work to make sure that every student feels and is safe and supported by UNCP.” UNCP Faculty Senate have since issued a resolution in support of the students and the student-led march:
“We strongly encourage community leadership to develop antiracist community partnerships and programs that cultivate inclusive community through education and shared understanding that foster appreciation of and respect for all people, with immediate emphasis on issues of racism that shape Black lives.”