A coalition that includes the Durham city workers' union is vowing to pressure the city into halting plans for a new $71 million police headquarters. (The project was originally slated to cost $81 million, but in February the city council voted to downsize.)
On April 18, picketers representing the Durham Beyond Policing coalition earned approving honks from passing drivers on Mangum Street. They say they'll keep it up until the city kills the police HQ project.
"We just feel like eighty-one million is a lot to put toward a police station," says Nathanette Mayo, a chemist for the Department of Water Management, "particularly when city workers have gone without for so many years. The last time we saw this, the money was taken from city workers to build DPAC. We just have never caught up."
Mayo is secretary of the UE Local 150. She complains that "little, measly pay-for-performance merit raises" that don't keep up with inflation have replaced cost-of-living raises. "We're continuously falling behind," she says.
The minimum wage for city workers is $12.53 per hour; the union and its allies are fighting for $15. (Since state law prohibits collective bargaining, public pressure is their only recourse.)
Three days after that protest, coalition member Chanelle Croxton addressed the city council at a midday work session. She demanded "an active divestment from the police" and a "reinvestment into services, programs, and institutions that serve the needs of the most marginalized in our community."
She added that concerns about the new headquarters are not just about the allocation of funds. Durham Beyond Policing, she said, was created "to point out the gross abuses and violence of the Durham Police Department ... and the ways policing in Durham actually causes harm, particularly to black and brown residents."
On behalf of Durham Beyond Policing, Croxton also demanded a council vote by May 18 to quash the project.
"We thought that was a date in order for them to properly address what we say," Croxton says, "but also, put pressure on them. If the council doesn't come up with a response or their vote is to continue on with the plans, then we'll actively be fighting that in multiple ways."
The city seems unlikely to be swayed.
While city council member Jillian Johnson agrees that the DPD's new headquarters is too expensive, she says, "The city and administration really want this to happen."