Heavy Police, Volunteer Presence Makes For Quiet 4th Uptown
Thousands of people gathered in uptown Charlotte last night to watch the 4th of July fireworks display. Many say they were undeterred by the violence over Memorial Day weekend, the last time large crowds gathered uptown. Charlotte police had a massive presence last night, and reported just four adult arrests, compared to 21 last July 4. This year, police were joined on the streets by hundreds of African American volunteers with a simple goal - to set a positive example for young people uptown. Local businessman James Brown was one of about 300 African American men wearing a bright orange t-shirt and chatting up young people last night in uptown. Brown and the other volunteers handed young people flyers with information about their newly-formed group, Men Who Care Global. He says the group's purpose last night was to provide young African American men with good role models. He says he was reminded how important that is after the violence over Memorial Day weekend, which involved some as young as ten years old. "That was ridiculous," said Brown. "Two kids shot. One killed. 70 arrests." The violence inspired former city councilman Ron Leeper to organize the group, and last night was its first outreach event. In addition to the bright orange presence of Men Who Care Global, several area churches gathered their own volunteers to wear bright green shirts that said Church Men For Change. LaDonte Lee was one of them. "We're here with the same focus," said Lee. "Just to establish a presence. Just smiling, telling the guys 'hello' and telling 'em we're here for them, we care about em, and we love em. 20-year-old Juan Lewis spent close to a half hour talking with a few volunteers. He appreciated that the men were reaching out. "It really mean a lot," said Lewis. "I would hope that one of these fellas could be an uplift for me." The volunteers stayed late after the fireworks, reminding the large crowds of teenagers to make it home before the 11 p.m. city curfew for youth 15 and under. Police reported 11 youth curfew violations uptown last night. The volunteers for Men Who Care Global say they plan to stay engaged with the young people they met. The group will host a leadership symposium for young African American men in early August.