UPDATED (6/28, 4p.m.): An earlier version of this article stated that TAP maintained that Boulware did not have a pen. In fact, Boulware said she had a pen for notetaking during the court hearing.
After more than a month, activists with the Triad Abolition Project say that one of their organizers, Yvette Boulware, is facing more than four years in prison for charges stemming from a May arrest.
On May 17, Boulware was arrested in Winston-Salem while attending a court hearing for two members of TAP. According to the organization, Boulware was grabbed and tackled to the ground by bailiffs as she tried to leave the courtroom. Court documents state that Boulware was arrested for assaulting Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Terry Whitaker with an ink pen, which resulted in a felony charge of assault against a government official as well as a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest.
The charge of assault with a deadly weapon on a governmental officer has a maximum punishment of 59 months, close to five years. Boulware’s charge has been classified as a felony rather than a misdemeanor, according to arrest documents, because she “willfully” assaulted Whitaker in the head with a pen, which is noted as “deadly weapon” and caused Whitaker “serious injury.”
In a previous article, Christina Howell, the public information officer for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, told TCB that Whitaker sustained a minor head wound but did not clarify if he was assaulted with an ink pen.
According to TAP, Boulware said that she had a pen for note taking during court when she was released.
“TAP is committed to keeping Ms. Yvette free,” the organization said in a statement. “We are not surprised the state has continued to perpetuate its brutal violence on this elder Black woman, as we are well aware that the purpose of the carceral state is to uphold white supremacist rule.”
Members of the organization said that the ultimate goal is for Boulware’s charges to be dropped immediately, calling for Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill to dismiss the charges. O’Neill’s office did not respond to multiple requests from Triad City Beat for comment on this case.
Both Boulware and members of the TAP have been fighting for justice in the killing of John Neville by Forsyth County detention officers since his death on Dec. 4, 2019. On June 23, a federal district judge approved a $3 million settlement in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the Neville family, according to court records.
In the summer of 2020, members of the organization held an occupation which lasted 49 days in Bailey Park to bring light to the Neville case. Several members of TAP, including Boulware, were arrested at the time for civil disobedience.
The latest charges against Boulware are a continuation of the harmful prison industrial complex that allowed for Neville’s death in the first place, say TAP members.
“As we fight for Ms. Yvette’s freedom, we also continue our practice of abolition working to dismantle the prison industrial complex,” the statement reads. “This fight is for Ms. Yvette, but it’s also for every prisoner of the state because we know that Fannie Lou Hamer was accurate when she proclaimed, ‘Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.’”
According to the organization, Boulware was tackled in the courtroom after she tried to leave when the bailiff told her to stay in the courthouse after the hearing. Earlier in the day, Boulware had exchanged words with a bailiff who asked her to remove sunglasses that she had on the top of her head. To that, Boulware told them that she would keep them on unless they could cite the statute she was violating.
However, Whitaker and AL Hughes, another sheriff’s deputy, state in a court document that Boulware hit Whitaker “in the side of the head with an ink pen” as he was “bringing the subject before the judge in court.”
After serving 31 hours in the Forsyth County Detention Center, Boulware was released on a $5,000 bond and is currently awaiting her next court appearance for the charges on Aug. 11. She is also due in court on July 28 for a protest arrest charge stemming from her activity during the Bailey Park occupation.
“The amount of energy, time, and funding required to respond to this level of state violence is immense,” TAP’s statement reads. “It is imperative that the community understand that what happened to Ms. Yvette is not an isolated incident, nor an anomaly. Judges in Forsyth County, and across this state and nation, can order our neighbors to be jailed at any time for the most absurd of reasons, including chewing gum, yawning, or having an untucked shirt in court.”
As of June 2, the case was continued because “discovery is still forthcoming in the case and neither party is prepared to proceed,” according to an order continuing a probable-cause hearing. Boulware’s attorney, James Quander, reached by phone on Monday, declined to comment on the case at this time.
Triad Abolition Project is collecting donations for Boulware’s legal expenses here.
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