This excerpt is being reprinted to illustrate the systematic nature of police violence and racism in Chapel Hill. It has been erroneously stated that this is the first time an incident like this one has happened in Chapel Hill . We hope by bringing this past incident to light we can move forward as a community to end police violence and fight the coming police state.
One of the most infamous SWAT “fishing expeditions” was “Operation Ready-Rock,” launched in November 1990 by the Chapel Hill police. In response to drug dealing in North Carolina’s college-town version of Sodom, the guardians of order received a “blanket” warrant allowing them to search every person and vehicle on the 100 block of Graham Street. The sweep was aimed at what law enforcement viewed as a criminal space. The warrant request explained that
During the past 10 months, in our personal observations during surveillance, controlled buys and undercover buys, we believe that there are no “innocent” people at this place…Only drug sellers and drug buyers are on the described premises.
To execute the warrant the CHPD assembled a force of forty-five tactical officers from four different agencies, including the State Bureau of Investigation’s elite Special Response Team. The assault force-dressed in combat boots, green camo’ battle dress uniforms, body armor, hoods, masks, goggles, and kevlar helmets – armed itself with the usual array of “tactical” gadgetry: less-than-lethal “blunt trauma impact ordinances,” chemical sprays, and H & K MP-5s, MP-54s, and Colt AR-15s. For maximum results, the operation was launched on a Friday night with teams of officers storming the block from all directions, cutting off every path of escape and then combing the area with drug-sniffing dogs. Even amidst the military frenzy the courtesy of the old south prevailed: whites were allowed to leave the area , while more than a hundred African Americans were searched. The warrant also included the search of a pool hall called the Village Connection. In typically “proactive” fashion SWAT commandos made a “dynamic entrance,” smashing in the front door and forcing the occupants to the floor at gunpoint. While the captives were searched and interrogated, the bar was ransacked for contraband. The commotion left one elderly man trembling on the floor in a pool of his own urine.
The stunt, costing thousands of dollars in public money, netted thirteen arrests for minor cocaine and methamphetamine possession. The innocent victims of the raid, who spent the evening being berated and humiliated by cops, later filed a mildly successful class action suit. But no police officers were ever reprimanded or punished, nor were new guidelines for drug raids adopted.