Featured photo: A graphic created by the Triad Abolition Project demands justice for Yvette Boulware, pictured, who was arrested in the courthouse on Tuesday afternoon. (courtesy photo)
James Douglas contributed reporting to this story.
(UPDATED 5/19): Yvette Boulware was released from the Forsyth County Detention center around 10 p.m. on May 18 according to Triad Abolition Project.
Yvette Boulware, a 62-year-old community activist and court watcher, was tackled and subsequently arrested by six bailiffs at the Forsyth County Courthouse on Tuesday afternoon, activists in Winston-Salem say.
According to a public statement by Triad Abolition Project, Boulware was attending a hearing for two members of TAP on Tuesday afternoon when she was grabbed and tackled to the ground while attempting to leave the courtroom. Boulware, who frequently spends time as a court watcher for the organization, was appearing on behalf of Sarah Carney and Carew Henry, who were both arrested for civil disobedience in the summer of 2020 during occupied protests that sought justice for the killing of John Neville. Neville was killed by detention officers after being restrained face-down in the Forsyth County jail in December 2019. Both of Carney and Carew’s charges were dropped by Judge Lawrence Fine, according to Carney, for lack of evidence.
According to reporting by the Winston-Salem Journal, Boulware was arrested and charged for “assaulting a bailiff with an ink pen.”
A P2C bulletin on the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office’s website notes that Boulware was charged with one felony assault on an officer and misdemeanor for resisting arrest.
However, witnesses, including Carney who was in the courtroom when the events took place, say that Boulware never assaulted the deputy.
“I heard [about the pen] from another reporter, and that was the first I heard of that,” Carney said. “I did not even see Yvette holding a pen.”
Instead, what Carney said she saw was Boulware getting grabbed by a Deputy TW Whitaker, who is also listed as the arresting officer for Boulware, after Boulware attempted to leave the courtroom.
According to Carney, Boulware tried to leave after the bailiff told her to stay in the courthouse to go see Judge Fine because she had an appointment soon after.
Earlier in the day, Boulware exchanged words with one of the bailiffs 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.
“Then they dropped it,” Carney said about the sunglasses. “After the cases were dismissed due to lack of evidence and we were trying to all leave, one of the bailiffs asked Yvette to go see Judge Fine, and she said she couldn’t. As she was trying to walk away, the first bailiff grabbed her and threw her to the ground aggressively. Then five more jumped on her. When my fellow arrestee tried to record it, his phone was seized and we were asked to leave the building.”
Christina Howell, the public information officer for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office told TCB that Boulware was in the process of being held in contempt of court when she became “physically disruptive and assaulted a deputy.” Deputies then responded and assisted in restraining Boulware, according to Howell. Howell also noted that the deputy sustained a minor head wound and is expected to make a full recovery but did not clarify if the deputy was Whitaker and if he was assaulted with an ink pen.
Boulware is being held on a $5,000 bond and will not be able to be bailed out until 6 p.m. on Wednesday, according to Triad Abolition Project.
On Tuesday night, more than 50 members of the community held an emergency rally outside the county detention center to protest Boulware’s arrest.
“To our knowledge and truth, Ms. Yvette was targeted by court bailiffs in an attempt to dissuade support and solidarity from court watchers specific to the #OCCUPYWSNC arrests, as well as to undermine the confident celebration of the two protesters whose #OCCUPYWSNC arrest cases were dismissed due to a lack of state’s evidence,” part of TAP’s statement reads.
Activist and organizer Brittany Battle told TCB that seeing Boulware, who stands less than five feet tall, shackled and arrested by six deputies is just another example of systemic racism within the justice system.
“After seeing Ms. Yvette at her first appearance with her legs shackled and her hands shackled to her waist at 62 years old and less than five feet tall, I am even more certain of the brutal violence of the police and the carceral state,” Battle said. “There is no way that sunglasses on the top of someone’s head warranted the brutal assault Ms. Yvette experienced yesterday.”
Boulware has long been involved in the fight for civil rights according to multiple news interviews and statements by TAP.
“Ms. Yvette, as she is lovingly referred to in the community, is a mother, a member of Triad Abolition Project, as well as a mentor and educator for countless community advocates across the South,” TAP’s statement reads. “At the age of 62, she has spent her lifetime upholding the radical activism and philosophy of nonviolence, the same nonviolence that led the US Civil Rights Movement and continues to guide movements towards care-centered change in our communities.”
Members of TAP said they would continue to protest Boulware’s arrest and demand her immediate release. Boulware was scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday morning at 9:15am for her first hearing. This story will be updated as needed.
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