Black Lives Matter activist arrested during anti-racism training after confrontation with white woman
64 year old Sharon Smith was arrested on March 16th during a Racial Equity Institute event in Biltmore Forest, North Carolina and charged with misdemeanor counts of resisting a public officer, disorderly conduct and marijuana possession (which was added after the police searched Smith at the jail), according to Citizen Times.
Bitmore Forest Police Chief Chris Beddingfield, who did not officially become chief until the day after the arrest but claimed familiarity with the situation, says that the situation was “handled great.”
Smith was arrested after she allegedly broke a Racial Equity Institute policy which prohibited alumni of the training from participating when she answered a question one of the three panelists posed to the group in attendance. The event was held at Mountain Area Health Education Center.
When Smith responded, another alumna of the training, Carol Rogoff Hallstrom, reached over and told Smith that she wasn’t allowed to speak out, per the policy. Smith told Citizen Times she told her, “There’s no way, according to systemic racism theory, that any white woman should be telling a woman of color what she should and shouldn’t be saying. That’s just not OK.”
A MAHEC employee escalated things further by asking Smith to leave and calling security, who then called the Biltmore Forest Police. According to Chief Beddingfield, Smith was asked to leave the premises multiple times, and she refused. Beddingfield characterized the effort to remove Smith by saying, “It’s kinda like soft hands, you’re guiding someone off the premise.”
Smith counters this telling of events. “They used force to get me out of the room because I refused to leave any other way,” she says.
Ironically, the organizers of the event issued a statement Wednesday acknowledging the part that systemic racism played in the events that unfolded:
“The REI core organizers regret that the situation was not able to be resolved without calling in law enforcement, and we recognize the ways in which systemic racism contributed to this outcome. In this work, there is a constant need for effective communication, growth and learning.”