Masked Protesters Overtake Community Discussion On Affordable Housing

Mar 26, 2019

A small group of protesters wearing red masks overtook a community event discussing Charlotte's affordable housing crisis Tuesday night.

The event, held at the Great Aunt Stella Center in uptown, had just begun when the protesters entered the room through a side door and mounted the stage, holding signs reading, "Charlotte Center City Partners #1 Gentrifiers. Displace The Developers. Defend Our Hoods!" and "Gentrification Is War. You Don't Fight War With Peace."

For a period of ten minutes, the protesters occupied the stage and chanted, "Charlotte's not just for the rich, we won't move another inch!" and "Defend our hood!" The audience countered with chants of "Go away," and "Email is better."

The protesters ultimately left without incident, and the panel discussion went on as scheduled. Police said there were no arrests.

It was the second time this month a community meeting on affordable housing was interrupted by protesters. On March 12, a small group rushed the stage at a Habitat for Humanity event, and were met with boos from the audience.

Reached by telephone, a man speaking on behalf of the activist group Serve The People Charlotte told WFAE the group was responsible for staging Tuesday night's protest. When asked if the group was also responsible for protesting the Habitat for Humanity event, the man said he could "neither confirm nor deny," and hung up.

Tuesday night's event, titled "Neighborhoods With More Neighbors," was aimed at discussing Charlotte's affordable housing shortage and the city's struggle with rapid gentrification.

Among the speakers were Charlotte's planning director, Taiwo Jaiyeoba, who said the protest reflected the angst many residents are feeling.

"It says a lot about the state of our inequitable investment as a city," he said. "It says a lot about a lack of affordable housing. It says a lot about people not being able to live where they want to live."

Other speakers at the event included city planners from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. WFAE President and CEO Joe O'Connor moderated.

The event was sponsored by Center City Partners, the City of Charlotte, and The Knight Foundation.