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North Carolina protesters accused of blocking traffic weren’t at a polling place

November 3, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Video shows Black Lives Matter activists blocking polls in North Carolina.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: Missing context. The participants were part of a get-out-the-vote rally in North Carolina to emphasize voter turnout. Police say they arrested and pepper-sprayed the activists for blocking a road without authorization. However, activists were more than a block away from the polling site when the march ended.

THE FACTS: On Oct. 31, demonstrators in Graham gathered for the “I Am Change” protest, a march to the polls, which began at a local church to the Alamance County’s courthouse.

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Police say they arrested and pepper-sprayed activists for blocking a road without permission. On Nov. 1, videos circulated on social media with misleading claims showing the clash between protesters and police outside of the courthouse. Police wearing riot gear and gas masks are shown in the video spraying the activists.

“BLM terrorists blocking polls in North Carolina,” one tweet stated. The tweet had over 3,000 retweets.

“BREAKING BLM BLOCKING POLLS IN N.C!! This is RIDICULOUS!! THEY’LL STOP AT NOTHING TO SILENCE UR VOTE!! Be VIGILANT!!” another tweet stated. The post had over 1,600 retweets.

The courthouse, where the rally ended, is more than a block away from the polling place, which was on 201 W. Elm St. Protesters paused to kneel for nearly nine minutes to honor George Floyd, who died at the hands of Minneapolis police in May. Floyd, a Black man, died after a white officer pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for several minutes. After the nine-minute pause, police say “traffic began backing up in all direction,” according to a press release from the Graham Police Department.

The press release stated that the demonstrators didn’t have permission to block traffic. Rev. Greg Drumwright, the march organizer, initially asked police and the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office for a temporary road closure for the rally members, but Drumwright “missed the deadline” for the request, the police press release said.

According to AP reporting, Drumwright said the group was permitted to stand in the courthouse square and was escorted through the streets by the police. He also said that the group had “no intention” of having the rally in the street.

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The police press release said Drumwright had obtained a permit from the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office to rally at the courthouse.

Saturday was the last day to vote early in North Carolina, a key battleground state in the presidential race.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper called the incident “unacceptable.”

“Peaceful demonstrators should be able to have their voices heard and voter intimidation in any form cannot be tolerated,” Cooper said on Twitter.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536