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With A Call To Defund The Police, Protesters Rally For The 11th Day In Charlotte

People gathered in front of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center in uptown Monday with a call to defund police departments. The rally was organized by the group Charlotte Uprising. This is the 11th day of demonstrations against police violence and systemic racism in the city.

Ash Williams. 06/08/20
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Rally organizer Ash Williams.

"We're invigorated by what's happening in Minneopolis and all over the country with them defunding police and disbanding the departments and we're hoping that folks in Charlotte have enough sense to do that, too," said organizer Ash Williams. 

Protests here and around the country began after Minneapolis police killed a black man named George Floyd. A white officer was filmed kneeling on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes as Floyd pleaded to be let go before dying. 

The start of the rally Monday was marred by an altercation between protesters and a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer. Capt. Brad Koch — who'd been marching with protesters every night — arrived and was immediately surrounded by people yelling at him to leave. The crowd backed Koch onto a grassy area where he and a protester briefly scuffled. People quickly pulled them apart. 
 

Warning: This video contains strong language.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTYr_U8qmyw&feature=youtu.be

CMPD said 27-year-old James Mar was arrested and charged with assault on a government official, among other charges. A tweet said that the department was trying to identify others involved. 

It's the second altercation between Koch and protesters in two days. Near the end of Sunday night's marches, protesters began shoving Koch who was walking along with them. Other officers moved in to assist Koch in leaving the scene. Pepper spray was used. Two people were arrested. 

Darrell Gregory of the Charlotte NAACP read a long list of names of black people killed by police in America. Gregory's list included Jonathan Ferrell, Keith Lamont Scott and Danquirs Franklin — all men who were shot and killed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police. 

"We're here to be the voices of those who can no longer speak for themselves," Gregory said. 

Young people were a big presence at the rally.

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Claire Tandoh of Kidz Fed Up speaks Monday at a rally in uptown Charlotte.

"I need you to start actually making laws that are going to help me and my people," said Claire Tandoh, a teenage organizer of the group Kidz Fed Up. 

Tandoh called for city and county leaders to defund CMPD and using that money to provide more mental health resources for students and teachers and more diversity training for students and staff at schools and a better curriculum for African American studies, among other things. 

"Diversity and inclusion are not buzzwords for me," Tandoh said. "It is my life."

Tandoh also suggested police become community organizers, saying that "you do not need a badge and a gun to protect a community." 

By 6:50 p.m. the crowd had left the government center and marched toward CMPD headquarters as the crowd easily grew to more than 1,000 people, and then it was on to Marshall Park. 

Candyce Milales was at the protest to remind people about another place they could use their voices -- the ballot box. 

Miales was walking through the crowd with a clipboard, helping attendees register to vote "so they can claim their power," she said. 

As for what she hoped the protests would accomplish? 

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Protesters march from uptown Charlotte toward NoDa on Monday night.

"I want people to be able to recognize that we have human rights -- that we're all human and that we have the rights to basic things like shelter, food, socioeconomic, political," Miales said. "I want minorities to be able to represent themselves and be proud of their cultures, and I really want everybody to come together and just kind of evolve into a higher consciousness of learning and living." 

Tanisha Decosta was in Marshall Park with her daughter, granddaughter and a group of cheerleaders from Queen City Extreme Cheer and Dance Co. 

"We are here because we are a mentoring program, and although we like competition, we also like a cause," Decosta said. "Obviously we're black. Obviously our lives matter." 

She said she mustered some of the cheerleaders to come out and "put our footprint in history." 

By 7:50 p.m., the crowd had split into different directions as some went home. Others, though, kept marching, and by 9 p.m. the march headed out of uptown toward NoDa. 

That's also about the time news broke that Charlotte City Council had voted 9-2 to stop the police department from buying tear gas for at least the next fiscal year.

"It's only a start," said protester Kennell Jackson. 

Earlier in the evening, some protesters had called for the city manager, police chief and fire chief to be fired. 

Jackson noted that city council members in Minneapolis — where Floyd was killed — had pledged to dismantle their police department

"If we can divert those funds and put them toward something that's going to prevent people from needing the police in the first place, then that's what need to do," Jackson said on North Davidson Street as the crowd walked out of uptown.  

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Protesters who marched into NoDa from uptown Charlotte on Monday night were greeted with pizza outside Canvas Tattoo.

Marchers made their way peacefully into NoDa, stopping outside of Canvas Tattoo, where the shop's owner greeted them with pizza. It wasn't long before the marchers were on the road again, back south toward uptown. 

"Who are we?" shouted a protester as the crowd marched in the neighborhood known for its arts and culture. 

"The youth of the nation," marchers chanted back.

"What do we want?" the announcer asked. 

The crowd: "Justice." 

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Protesters march north on North Davidson Street on Monday night.

No arrests had been reported as of 11:45 p.m..   

Dashiell Coleman and Jennifer Lang contributed. 

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