Society

Coincidence? Tiny North Carolina Town Arrests 59 Black Residents On Election Day

| by Jonathan Wolfe

Angry residents of the small town of Mount Gilead, North Carolina are claiming that police held a drug sting on Election Day in an effort to suppress black residents from voting.

The sting resulted in the arrest of 59 Mount Gilead residents, all of them African American. Residents who believe the sting was ill-timed point out that the town’s last mayoral election was decided by just two votes. A re-vote was held when it was discovered that four black residents were denied ballots.

This year, Mayor Patty Almond, who has the support of Mount Gilead’s black community, lost by 90 votes. Mount Gilead has a total population of only 1,100 residents.

Though only 59 residents were arrested, Mount Gilead resident David Allsbrook says that family members of the arrestees were forced to spend all day interacting with police and making bail deposits. Of course, these time-consuming legal processes took place while others in the community were voting.

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"It's a stretch for me to think that this was a coincidence. If this is something they are trying to do to keep voters away, then this is pretty below-the-belt,” Allsbrook said. “It was a form of voter disenfranchisement and intimidation. That's what it was done for, to offset votes.”

In a town of only 1,100 residents, preventing even 100 people from voting can easily swing an election. North Carolina law enforcement officials are denying that the timing of the sting was meant to keep the Mount Gilead African American community from voting. North Carolina Department of Public Safety spokesperson Patty McQuillan claims she was completely unaware of the sting’s peculiar timing.

“I didn’t even know it was Election Day,” she said. "It's so hard to find a date where there isn't this or that thing happening. It's almost impossible to schedule anything because there is always something going on."

McQuillan admits that stings shouldn’t be scheduled on days when there is “this thing or that thing happening.” Shouldn’t Election Day be one of those “things”?

Sources: Institute for Southern Studies, NCDPS