State briefs: Lawyers: Cooper didn’t need group’s consent for virus orders

Published 6:49 pm Wednesday, July 29, 2020

RALEIGH (AP) — North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper didn’t need the consent of other statewide elected leaders to issue COVID-19 orders shuttering businesses, limiting assemblies and mandating face coverings, state attorneys wrote on Wednesday.

Responding to a legal challenge by Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Cooper said his executive orders were carried out under a state law that allows him to act without the concurrence of the Council of State. The 10-member council includes Cooper, Forest, Attorney General Josh Stein and others. That emergency powers law, according to Cooper’s state lawyers, lets him act unilaterally when the crisis extends beyond the ability of local governments to handle.

Cooper “had ample basis to determine that a statewide response is necessary to address the pandemic,” state Department of Justice attorneys wrote in a brief. “Without a statewide approach, hundreds of local governments would be left to take disparate approaches, many of which would be plainly inadequate to contain this disease.”

Forest sued Cooper on July 1 and wants Judge James Gale to block enforcement of Cooper’s orders. A hearing on Forest’s temporary restraining order request is planned next week. Forest is also attempting to unseat Cooper in the November election.

The department lawyers told Gale that granting Forest’s request could potentially lift all limits on economic and social activities, leading “to a dramatic spread of the virus, threatening to overwhelm the state’s medical system.” Forest’s lawyer can counter Cooper’s brief in writing before the hearing.

Several industries and entities have been unsuccessful while suing Cooper over his executive orders since the pandemic began, although a federal judge did strike down church attendance limits the governor set. In a separate case, Gale allowed several dozen bowling alleys to reopen, but the state Supreme Court suspended his decision while it reviews the case.

Roxboro enacts curfew, state of emergency

ROXBORO (AP) — A city in North Carolina has declared a state of emergency after a police officer fatally shot a Black man, resulting in recent demonstrations.

Roxboro, located 55 miles northwest of Raleigh, enacted the order and put a curfew on parts of the city Tuesday. The curfew began at 5 p.m. Tuesday and ran until 6 a.m. Wednesday. The curfew was also set to occur from 7 p.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. today before it will then be rescinded, the order posted on Facebook said.

The city council voted to enact the curfew after they became aware of an “outside presence” that “may attempt to disrupt” the city, according to the proclamation obtained by WRAL-TV. The proclamation said officials have determined there is an “imminent threat” that could result in “widespread or severe damage” to lives and property.

There have been demonstrations in Roxboro since Friday, the day David Brooks Jr. died during an officer-involved shooting. On Saturday, police made arrests after a group of nearly 30 people, some armed with molotov cocktails, refused to disperse, the city’s police department said in a news release.

Officers had responded to a call about a man wearing a mask and carrying what appeared to be a shotgun walking down U.S. Highway 158, Roxboro Police Chief David Hess said. Brooks, 45, was shot in the chest by one officer, Person County District Attorney Mike Waters said, according to The News & Observer.

Brooks was given first aid, but died from the wound to his chest, Waters said. Investigators found a loaded sawed-off shotgun, which is illegal in the state, at the scene of the shooting, Hess said. Authorities have not said whether Brooks had been carrying the weapon.

Two officers have been placed on paid leave as state investigators continue to review what happened during the incident.

UNC removes names of men from 4 buildings, cites racist ties

CHAPEL HILL (AP) — The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is removing names of men from campus buildings who have ties to white supremacy and racism.

The Raleigh News & Observer reported Wednesday that the campus Board of Trustees voted to remove the names of Charles B. Aycock, Julian S. Carr, Josephus Daniels and Thomas Ruffin Sr.

The university’s Commission on History, Race & A Way Forward said the men used their power to disenfranchise Black people.

The Aycock Residence Hall was named after former North Carolina Gov. Charles Aycock. The commission said he led a white supremacy campaign in 1898 that “condoned the use of violence to terrorize black voters and their white allies.”

The Carr building, a former dorm, is named after former trustee Julian S. Carr. The commission said he helped finance the Democratic Party’s 1898 white supremacy campaign, which “stripped black men of the right to vote and institutionalized racial segregation.”

The Daniels Building is named after former News & Observer publisher Josephus Daniels. The commission said he used his newspaper “to demonize Black voters and politicians as a threat to whites.”

The Ruffin Hall dorm is named after former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Ruffin Sr. and his son Thomas Ruffin Jr, a university alumnus. The commission said the elder Ruffin went against case law to give slave owners more power and to normalize violence in slavery.