GASTONIA, N.C. — A rainy Tuesday afternoon didn't drown out the voices of community members who gathered outside ahead of the Gastonia City Council meeting to demand change and action for two different causes.
First, the group said they are calling for the release of the body camera video showing the arrest of homeless veteran Joshua Rohrer, who was taken into custody by Gastonia Police and separated from his service dog Sunshine following reports of panhandling.
“Law enforcement says if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear and that applies to them as well," community advocate Spike Cohen said. "If they have nothing to hide why won’t they release the bodycam footage.”
Months after the initial incident, Rohrer's court date for the misdemeanor panhandling charge has not yet been set and he is determined to seek transparency.
“They committed crimes between me and my service dog and they need to be held accountable for it," Rohrer said.
He planned to express these concerns to Gastonia City Council during public comment until there was a change of plans.
“They have filled the city hall with city workers and are guarding the doors with police officers denying us entrance and access and basically infringing on our first amendment rights," Rohrer said.
Minutes later the crowd was then notified they could still speak before council, but only one speaker would be allowed into the building at a time.
Pastor Moses Colbert of Faith Hope and Love Community Enrichment Ministries Inc. was one of those public speakers who wanted to address council about possible solutions after he was recently prohibited from feeding and housing those with no place to go.
Pastor Moses is now suggesting the city consider creating a day shelter as one possible solution.
“If we don’t fix this problem it’s not going away it’s just going to get worse," Pastor Moses said.
Tuesday was the second rally the group has hosted and organizers say they plan to continue to rally until they get a response and action from Gastonia City Council.