RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Saturday was another day of divisiveness in downtown Raleigh as members of the Proud Boys, Stop the Steal NC, and ReOpen NC clashed with protesters from NC Born and the Black Lives Matter movement.
The day started out with a “Conservative Thanksgiving” demonstration outside of the Executive Mansion as way to protest gathering limits amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a Thanksgiving for Governor Cooper to let him know that you’re not gonna tell me how many people I’m gonna have at my house on private property during a holiday,” said Josh Flores, who helped organize the event. “I don’t care what’s going on.”
NC Born and Black Lives Matter supporters showed up around the same time and held their own protest against racism.
“We’ve been experiencing this for 400+ years, right. It’s 2020 and we’re still having to protest the mistreatment of black bodies,” said Muffin Hudson, who was also advocating for Gov. Roy Cooper to use his authority to pardon at-risk prisoners during the pandemic.
Raleigh police shut down multiple streets and created a barrier by standing between opposing protesters.
NC Born and Black Lives Matter supporters gathered on one side of Jones Street, while the Proud Boys and other protesters gathered on the opposite side.
“I knew that some [Proud Boys] would show up, but I didn’t know this many would show up,” said Kerwin Pittman, a social justice activist and founder of Recidivism Reduction Reduction Educational Program Services, Inc. “But it doesn’t surprise me that they still come out here and try and sow intimidation tactics 25 days post-election. So it seems kind of absurd.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Proud Boys as a hate group, but members deny that label.
“We’re absolutely in no way shape or form a hate group,” said Bill Whicker, a member of the Proud Boys who attended Saturday’s protest.
Whicker also denied that the group is comprised of white supremacists.
“Well, I should never have to defend myself against a strong man argument. This is set up and it’s not true. So then I have to defend myself and disavow something that was part of my life,” he said.
When CBS 17 asked Whicker if he believes in racism, he said, “I believe racism is real and I experience it every time I’m walking down an American street and someone calls me a cracker and spits on me.”
The protests lasted for hours, with people on both sides yelling obscenities and hateful words at each other.
When asked what could help bridge the divide in our community, Pittman said, “It’s gonna take bipartisanship from across the aisle on both sides in order for true change to be brought about. Until that comes, you’re just gonna see a divisiveness and division in the country.”
Despite the divisiveness, the dueling protests ended without any physical altercations or arrests.