The italicized portions of this article are the quotations from speeches given at the Justice for Marcus Commemoration, held in Greensboro’s Government Plaza on Sept. 8— the second anniversary of the fatal hogtying of Marcus Deon Smith by eight Greensboro police officers during the 2018 North Carolina Folk Festival. The event was organized by the Greensboro Justice Coalition, which includes the Beloved Community Center, Democracy Greensboro, The Good Neighbor Movement, Greensboro Rising, Guilford for All, The Homeless Union of Greensboro, and The Sunrise Movement.
Marcus Deon Smith was killed by public servants of Greensboro. We ask here and now, why do we have to wonder about the details of this man’s last moments and how they were handled? Even more importantly, what disciplinary actions were taken after his death? We as Black Americans live in a constant state of fear and anxiety. Imagine you walk out your front door, you can’t breathe. You go the grocery store, you can’t breathe, you try to take your kids to the store, and they can’t breathe. . .. We as citizens have the duty to apply pressure to make sure this never happens again.
AJ Morgan, The Three
On Sept 8, 2018, I read a headline that said a young man passed out and died after a folk festival. Two weeks after that, I made a phone call to Marcus Deon Smith’s family. They said ‘that’s not my son, he wouldn’t do that, he wouldn’t harm himself.’ Lo and behind, when you ask questions and they don’t answer, make sure you keep asking until you get the answer.
Rev. Wesley Morris, Pastor of Faith Community Church and member of the Beloved Community Center of Greensboro
Under no circumstances should any of us wait until it’s our baby that’s been harmed. You come out when it’s somebody else’s baby, you come out when it’s somebody else’s son, you come out when it’s somebody else’s husband...
We ain’t just going to be activated, we gonna be organized. I’m gonna say this as a language alert, for you all that have a relationship with your council members, call their asses! And don’t accept anything less than I’m going to vote yes on Written Consent. Anything outside of that is an excuse, and we ain’t gonna take it.
Kay Brown, Greensboro Rising
We demand that the city settle the Marcus Smith lawsuit fairly, and stop spending $300 an hour on defense lawyers that only prolong the process and cost tax payers more and more money.
Rev. Marlon Petty, Beloved Community Center of Greensboro
We didn’t just make noise, we made things happen. We won a six-million-dollar victor with K-Mart corporation when they were the largest corporation in the nation.
Rev. Nelson Johnson, Beloved Community Center, on the 1995 K-Mart boycott led by eight Black Greensboro ministers that won a union contact for better wages
We demand that the city apologize verbally and in writing to the Smith family and to the community for the police cover-up of the homicide of Marcus Smith, which has been aided and abetted by this city council.
Rev. Greg Headen, Pastor Emeritus, Genesis Baptist Church
They shot the beautiful young president of Bennett College between the eyes while she was trying to rescue children from the danger.
Rev. Nelson Johnson, on the 1979 Greensboro Massacre in which five people were murdered by the Klansmen and Nazis a police informant led to the scene with the knowledge of the Greensboro Police.
We sent seven demands to the city council. We haven’t heard from them and we don’t expect to, because it’s going to take a lot of work to get those met. Therefor, in the name of Marcus Deon Smith and in the spirt of those who have had similar experiences, we demand that the city release, to the public, all personnel and disciplinary records created as a result of the internal and disciplinary investigation into the eight Greensboro Police Department officers that were present when Marcus Smith was hogtied. If those records are considered confidential personnel records, then we demand that the city council release them under the legal exception that release of these records is essential to maintain public confidence in the level and quality of police services.
Hester Petty, Democracy Now
In the name of Marcus Deon Smith, and in the spirit of all others who have had similar experiences, we demand that the city introduce an ordinance that bans hogtying and limited the excessive use of force.
Bailey Pittenger, The Triad Abolition Project
We just wrapped up a week ago a 49-day occupation in Winston-Salem, where we were able to get the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office to ban the bent-leg prone restraint, which is the maneuver that killed Mr. Neville, Brie’s father. I’m here to remind y’all that organizing works. Making our voices heard, convening in this way, letting the city know that our eyes on you, that works. I was also the first protester in Winston to get arrested.
Winston was fine when we were protesting what happened in Louisville, what happened in Minneapolis, what happened in Atlanta, they were fine. But the day we started protesting around something that happened in our city and our council and shining the light on what our officials had covered up, our police and sheriff’s office had covered up, the arrests started. So, they targeted me as an activist, they dragged me off the sidewalk, not one but two police officers, my wrists was injured, an injury I’m still going to physical therapy for two months after the event, I was charged with impeding traffic, which is an historical charge they use to target freedom fights. So, you know what all that tells me? We were doing what we needed to do. Since July 8, the Winston-Salem police department has made 55 arrests of protests demanding justice for Mr. Neville.
But you know what? We don’t care. We’re not scared. We’re not silent. We’re going to continue to do this work, because it works, y’all, we won. We got that policy changed and made our county a little bit safer. But we know it’s a long process, right? It’s going to be exhausting, it’s going to be a lot of sacrifices, there’s blood, sweat and tears in this work, but we have to do this work, because we don’t need to be out here again six months from now, six years from now, saying another name.
Brittany Battle, The Triad Abolition Project
Therefore in the name of Marcus Deon Smith, and the spirt of all others that have had similar experiences, we demand that the city adopt the policy written by the Greensboro Criminal Justice Advisory Commission that requires the police to get signed permission before conducting a search without a warrant. Your city council will be voting on this next Tuesday. They will be voting on whether or not the police must get your signed consent before they search you without a warrant, they will be voting on whether or not the police have the right to just intimidate you into saying yes, and have that only recorded on video that none of us will be able to see. 82% of the people from Greensboro who are searched in these types of searches are Black. 82%. Four out of every five. So next week, we are hoping that our city council will pass actual policy change, that does not have loopholes for the police, that allows them to say, oh, it was too hard for me to get my pen, I’m not going to make you sign this right now, just take my word on camera. We want actual written consent.
And so, we are demanding that city council make sure they pass a strong motion, not whatever weak-sauce happens to be run up the flagpole. Over 500 people have written the city council to demand as much. We have not gotten a response on if they intend to pass this as GCJAC, the Greensboro Criminal Justice Advisory Commission, proposes, or if they will make a weak loophole to try to appease a police union that will be against them if they do anything in our interest at all regardless. So, we are asking that you pressure the city council to come out in favor of strong reform for written consent, and remember, in 2021, when we don’t have national coverage for the election, get out and vote for city council.
Casey Thomas, Greensboro Rising & Guilford For All
My father, John Neville— say his name— lost his life in a jail cell in Winston- Salem due to negligence because, as a Black man, his life had little to no value in comparison to those officers’ time. They held him face down in a prone restraint or hogtie-like position as he screamed for his death mother. For eight minutes and 46 seconds, an officer held his knee on George Floyd’s neck as he begged and screamed for his dead mother. Say his name! Marcus Smith was held face-down and restrained in a hog-tie position in our city’s own streets until he had no breath in his body to even beg for his life, and I’ll bet he wanted his mother, too...
Tell them they better try Jesus, not me, because we are not our ancestors. We fight back.
Brienne Neville, daughter of John Neville