Since May 26, 2020, the Winston-Salem Police Department has provided law enforcement coverage to approximately 31 rallies/protests throughout the City. These rallies/protests have championed an array of social causes, which are being echoed throughout the nation. The position of the Winston-Salem Police Department has been, and will continue to be, recognition and protection of the First Amendment rights of all citizens during these events.
Over the past several weeks, the Winston-Salem Police Department has actively listened to comments, concerns, and suggestions from a variety of community groups and members. We have participated in numerous conversations with the community to determine what the next steps will be to make positive changes. Chief Thompson and the Executive Staff have spoken at various demonstrations and listened to concerns of the citizens at those gatherings. Additionally, the public has been given an opportunity to speak during the public comment portion of both the Public Safety Committee Meeting and the City Council Meeting. Members of our agency have met both in-person and virtually with various community stakeholders. The WSPD has shown that it is already in compliance with the #8CantWait practices and has published several related policies on the police department website (www.wspd.org). We will remain open to conversation and committed to being transparent in what we do.
The WSPD requests compliance with all applicable laws during any future rallies/protests. These events are costly due to staffing needs, resource allocations, and the potential for delay in providing other emergency law enforcement services to others in our communities. Additionally, these events require staffing from other emergency response agencies (Forsyth County Emergency Medical Services, Winston-Salem Fire Department, etc.) and other law enforcement agencies (NC Highway Patrol, Forsyth County Sherriff’s Office, etc.). These resources were especially strained in past rallies/protests when they included the blocking of major thoroughfares and intersections, and the disruption of numerous businesses.
The Winston-Salem Police Department is committed to ensuring the safety of all of our citizens. These rallies/protests are fluid situations and are addressed as individual events when decisions for law enforcement actions are taken. While we encourage and support lawful demonstrations, the WSPD does not condone criminal violations during these events. This media release serves as notice that violations of City/County Ordinances and/or North Carolina General Statutes will subject violators to arrest. This includes, but is not limited to, trespassing and the illegal blocking of city streets and/or highways.
We are committed to providing exceptional police service to our community in partnership with our citizens. We ask for your continued support as we grow together as a community.