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Conflict Continues Between Activists, Mecklenburg Sheriff

Arrests by Mecklenburg County Sheriff's deputies
Sarah Delia/WFAE

Activists from the group Jail Support were arrested Monday morning after a sit-in protest across the street from the Mecklenburg County jail. The group was previously removed from the same location earlier this month.

Jail Support provides clothes, food, and resources to recently released people. Tensions have been high throughout the summer between the group and the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office. The MCSO says  group members have verbally and physically harassed law enforcement officers, committed obscene acts and littered the area. Members of the group have denied those claims.

In June, Jail Support was ordered to leave its location on Fourth street on the side closest to the jail. Members who refused were arrested. Jail Support later regrouped across the street. On Sept.11, the group was dismantled by sheriff's deputies. 

At least 25 activists were arrested Monday morning, the majority being charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass. Ash Williams with Jail Support says the group needs to be near the jail to do its work.

"As long as people get released right here, we want to be right here. It's not Jail Support if we can't see the people getting released and if they can't see us, it’s not Jail Support," Williams said.

Williams added that part of the reason for the sit-in was to mark the anniversaries of the deaths of Keith Lamont Scott and Justin Carr. Scott was shot to death by police in 2016. Carr, a 26-year-old Charlotte man, was shot and killed during one of the nights of protests that erupted after Scott's death.

Credit Sarah Delia/WFAE
Tensions continue on Fourth Street between Sheriff's deputies and Jail Support.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden says he is willing to provide a place inside the detention center for the group. 

"Do you want to collaborate and work together or do you want conflict? And do you want the true concept of jail support?" McFadden said. 

Williams says being inside the jail is not an option. 

"We don't want to be in the jail," Williams said. "That's not where we want to be at all."

McFadden says he wants community leaders and members of Jail Support to come together and figure out how to move forward. 

"Let's come together, let's create something that supports the people coming from the detention center," McFadden said. "Some people say, 'Sheriff McFadden is telling a lie.' Well, I say, show me that I am. I'm here."

Despite the arrests Monday, Jail Support members say they will continue to find ways to work near the jail. 

"We feel like we have to do Jail Support," Williams said. 

WFAE asked McFadden if more arrests would occur if members of the group continued to show up around the jail. His response: 

"I can't answer that. But, why keep maneuvering around something that you can help with? Why don't we do something that truly helps the people that we are talking about?"

"The people that are suffering are the people who we are all saying that need help."

Sarah Delia is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.