Charlotte Protesters: 'We Look At Ferguson And We See Our Backyard'
Ferguson, Missouri is more than 700 miles away from Charlotte. But that doesn’t mean the events there aren’t resonating here.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Charlotte last night to protest a grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer who shot and killed black teen Michael Brown.
It was just after 6:00 p.m. when the crowd gathered in front of the fountain at Marshall Park, their arms raised as they yelled out "hands up...don't shoot!", a refrain now heard across the country.
Nineteen-year-old Taquoia Beals was in the crowd. When she heard that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson would not face charges Beals said, "I was so upset. I was so upset I cried."
And she thought of Michael Brown’s parents. "I felt for them, you know I have a son. So if it was my son I would want justice."
Her son is just a year old, but Beals is already thinking about when they’ll have what’s known as ‘the talk.’ When she tells him he’s prone to being treated as suspicious by police officers because he’s a black male. "I don’t know how I’m going to tell him," she says, "I don’t know how I’m going to tell my son you’re at a disadvantage in life."
Also complicating that talks is this; Taquoia Beals wants to be a police officer. She held her son in one arm as she joined in the protest.
Keithon Watkins was on the periphery of the crowd. He was selling t-shirts bearing the silhouette of a figure, hands raised, with the words ‘Don’t Shoot’ printed in large red letters. "Its really sad," the 44-year-old says, "this situation has taken place with someone’s life."
After Michael Brown was killed his body lay in the street for four and a half hours before being taken to the morgue. It’s a fact Watkins can’t get out of his head. "I have a young one here. And I pray that nothing like that would take place with him." Then, he added, "I really wouldn’t want my kid laying on the ground, four and a half hours like a dog."
Bree Newsome is with Ignite North Carolina, one of the protest organizers. Through a megaphone she told the crowd "every city across this nation has a Mike Brown. We look at Ferguson, Missouri and we see our own back yard." And she reminded them about Jonathan Ferrell.
Jonathan Ferrell was a 24 year old African-American shot and killed not far from Marshall Park. He was in an early morning car accident and knocked on a nearby door asking for help. Police responded to a report of an attempted break-in.
Randall Kerrick, a white officer, fired a dozen shots, 10 of which hit Ferrel. Kerrick now faces a charge of voluntary manslaughter.
At another protest, this one staged in front of the federal courthouse in Uptown, Mathew Newton, among others, address the crowd. "We know that the case regarding Jonathan Ferrell is ongoing not just in our state courthouse but in the federal courthouse behind me."
Whereas other cities have deployed police en mass during similar protests, there was only one uniformed officer in the crowd. Captain Gerald Smith is the commander of the Westover division. Other officers were in the area but Charlotte police wanted to keep a low profile during last night’s events. "Our goal is to help facilitate these rallies," says Captain Smith, "to make sure that they go peacefully, to make sure everyone has the opportunity to speak and express their feelings."
In a statement Charlotte officials reported all the protests last night 'were peaceful and without incident.'