Something is hitting a fan

Several days after a youth died in DPD custody, a group of people showed up at DPD HQ to protest last night.

And it got ugly.

At least three people were arrested Friday night when a march by people protesting the death of 17-year-old Jesus Huerta while in police custody turned destructive at Durham Police headquarters.

An estimated 150 supporters of the Riverside High School student gathered at CCB Plaza downtown, and the crowd swelled to about 200 as they marched toward police headquarters around 8 p.m.

This follows councilman Moffitt’s comments earlier in the week indicating that he was concerned about the pace of these investigations:

“It’s just that I’m frustrated that we have cases that go back a year that are still in the system,” he said. “We need to be moving forward. That’s all. We need the information, we need the results of the investigations, we need to be able to move forward.”

In the PR biz, you typically want to “get ahead” of bad news before it passes a threshold of public awareness. You know – confront it head on, control the messaging around it. That’s because 1) the truth usually will come out regardless, 2) until it does, people are free to let their imaginations run wild assuming the worst, and 3) it tends to make the problem “go away” faster than having it linger in limbo for ages as people are left to speculate.

Earlier this week I expected that Lopez might keep mum until the SBI investigation was complete. Now? I don’t think so. He has to fall on his sword get control of the situation before things get worse.

If he doesn’t do something soon, there’s going to be more than just his job at stake. This could get really bad.

EDIT: to clarify, I didn’t mean to claim that resignation is the right play for Lopez; I just think he has to do something very visible very soon to take responsibility (whatever it means in this context; we still don’t know) for what happened. The “not willing to interfere with SBI investigation” line is not going to be adequate if things escalate (even though the Council has his back on it for now at least).

Protests up to now had all remained civil. The “outside agitators” (as the H-S described them) who showed up on Saturday are ready to up the ante, and there’s now a serious risk that they’ll turn the legitimate concern from citizens about the DPD’s actions into an excuse for violence. Lopez can’t allow that to happen.

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