North Carolina: Activists Protest 2019 Police Assault of Elderly Black Woman, Victim Files Lawsuit

By Noah Long

Last Saturday, activists in Salisbury, North Carolina marched in protest of the brutal police assault of Stephanie Bottom, an elderly Black woman who police attacked during a traffic stop in 2019. Video released last month of the incident has sparked the community’s anger and generated demands for justice for Bottom, who has filed a lawsuit against police for use of excessive force.

In May 2019, Bottom, a 68-year-old librarian from Atlanta, was driving to a funeral in Raleigh when officers from the Salisbury Police Department (SPD) and the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office claim she violated speed ordinances and began to pursue her. Bottom says was listening to music and did not notice the officers, who eventually used spike strips to flatten her tires and stop her vehicle. The officers then approached Bottom’s car with their guns drawn.

A still showing police grabbing Stephanie Bottom by her hair.

The police proceeded to pull Bottom out of her car by her hair and slam her against the ground, tearing Bottom’s rotator cuff in the assault, resulting in what she says is permanent damage. On a body camera recording, SPD Officer Devin Barkalow is heard calling Bottom a “fucking retard” during the pursuit and one officer brags about grabbing a “handful of dreads” in reference to pulling Bottom by her hair.

Saturday’s march, led by Women for Community Justice (WCJ), met in front of the Sheriff’s department building and began to march shortly afterwards. During the march, the protesters stopped at various street corners where activists gave speeches.

At one of the stops, Olen Bruner, a former pastor, told the crowd, “today I rage against the machine because the system is the true face of inequity and inequality.”

Protesters carried homemade signs reading, “Protect Black Women” and “We Demand Justice.” As the marchers passed the Rowan County courthouse, they chanted “Accountability” and “Police the Police.”

“Why did it take a lawsuit to bring this to light?” Nan Lund, an activist with WCJ asked, “Absent the lawsuit, would this have ever been published?”

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