Bearing a message of unity and calling for justice, members of the Church of the Apostolic Revival assembled Sunday to protest the actions of law enforcement officials and University administrators toward members of the men's lacrosse team accused of rape.
The protest, which was organized by members of the Church, took place outside the 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. house where the rape allegedly occurred March 13. Approximately 50 church members, local residents and students attended the hour-long event.
With news cameras and reporters from major broadcast networks and newspapers present, Apostle John Bennett, who represented the church, addressed a national audience.
"[We are here] not in an antagonistic spirit," he said. "We are not gathered in the name of race, but in the name of justice."
Bennett criticized the media for creating racial tensions between Duke and North Carolina Central University, where the alleged victim is a student.
"[She] is a free-spirited human being," he said. "She is not the property of NCCU or of the African-American community. There are just as many outraged Caucasians, and just as many outraged Duke students."
Bennett's primary concern, however, was what he called a lack of "justice." He decried the way law enforcement officials and Duke administrators are treating the lacrosse players.
He said officials' courses of action would have been different if the players had been of another race.
"The crucial question is why," Bennett said. "Why have [the suspects] not been arrested? Why does one get to go home to his New Jersey house?"
With a wife and daughter of his own, Bennett said he was deeply shaken by the lack of safety in the community.
"Why do we allow the accused to roam our streets freely?" he asked, adding that members of the team remain free both on and off campus.
Brother Davis, a Duke alumnus and member of the Church of Apostolic Revival, spoke after Bennett.
Davis said he was the victim of Duke's culture of institutionalized racism when he was a student.
"The racism that exists now is still here," he said. "It's not blatant, but it's still here."
Accused of a petty crime as a student, Davis said he was immediately sent to a Wake County jail where he was held for 24 hours before being released and acquitted, without receiving any support or protection from the University's administration.
It was his race, he said, that warranted treatment different from the treatment the lacrosse players are now receiving.
Today, Davis said, the administration is not doing enough to punish wrongdoings among its students.
"[Duke] is a constant source of shame and animosity," he said. "It's time to stop forming committees and address [the allegations facing Duke students]. We want peace in our city."
Members of the community present at the rally echoed the sentiments of the two speakers.
"I just want the truth to come out," said Martin Ross, a member of the church. "If it was another ethnicity, they would be in jail seeing time."
Other onlookers at the protest were less ready to accept the criticisms of Bennett and the church.
"There is a lot of misunderstanding of the Duke community," senior David Krauss said. "The light that Duke has been portrayed in is categorically incorrect. Nobody is doing stories about the good of the Duke-Durham Initiative because that doesn't make good news."
Krauss also addressed accusations that Duke's campus is racially divided.
"The first time I heard about the idea that Duke was a 'plantation' of the South was in a newspaper, so that must say something," he said.
Other students, like sophomore Hasnain Zaidi, are rallying efforts to "bring to light the other side of Duke."
In an e-mail, Zaidi explained that he plans to create a short film with the theme of "The Real Duke" to "capture Duke kids that are constructively engaging in their community."
"It hurts me to see the way Duke is being shown to the nation and world," he wrote. "This whole incident is horrific by itself... and I hope that [the movie] will help us work towards a solution."