A non-profit civil rights organization is raising the issue of voter intimidation in connection to a recent drug bust in Mount Gilead.
In an article published on its website yesterday, the Institute for Southern Studies quotes Mount Gilead resident David Allsbrook as saying the Nov. 5 law enforcement operation “was a form of voter disenfranchisement and intimidation”.
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety said the raid involved scores of officers and deputies from four town police departments and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, and resulted in 59 arrests and the confiscation of more than a quarter-pound of cocaine, three-quarters of a pound of marijuana, 10 gallons of alcohol, 25 grams of opiates and three guns.
A spokesperson for the Public Safety department said the operation was not specifically planned to coincide with election day, and an officer from the Mount Gilead Police Department told Town Commissioners and the public Tuesday basically the same thing, adding that he schedules operations near the first of the month and typically not on Mondays so as to avoid family conflicts for officers.
Montgomery County Sheriff Dempsey Owens expressed satisfaction with the results of the bust, but, according to the article, David Allsbrook said “he believes the bust was done to affect the outcome of (municipal) elections” being held the same day.
Speaking about those arrested in the bust, Mount Gilead Mayor Patty Almond told the article’s author she feels “their right to vote was taken from them”.
The article implies that Almond has the support of the entire black community and cites her claim that she has been victimized as an “outsider” in Mount Gilead while attempting what she characterized as ‘a push for more transparency’ in town spending and ‘more social equality’.
At the same time, some in the African American community have expressed displeasure with the Mayor’s actions. Highland Community Center director Mary Pemberton, African American herself, took issue with the Mayor’s repeated references to the facility as “the black community center” in emails to the state Division of Community Assistance.
Former Montgomery County Commissioner and local resident George Knight, also African American, has addressed Town Commissioners on several occasions to express his dissatisfaction with the Mayor. At one point during a commissioner meeting, Mayor Almond issued him a “verbal warning”, threatening to have him removed from the meeting.