'We're Tired Of Waiting': Day 7 Of Charlotte Protests

Jun 4, 2020

Updated 12:55 a.m.

Thursday marked the seventh straight day that demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality were held in Charlotte.

Kass Ottley speaks at the beginning of Thursday's rally in Freedom Park.
Credit Sarah Delia / WFAE

Local protests – along with those nationwide – were sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a white police officer who knelt on his neck. Protests in Charlotte began peacefully every day but ended in police firing tear gas the first five nights.

People had slowly started to gather in Freedom Park just before 5:30 p.m. Thursday to have their voices heard at the 2020 People's University event held by Charlotte Uprising.

As the late afternoon heat reached 88 degrees, some of those gathered held signs that said "black lives matter" as music played in the background.

One of those people was Renee, who didn't want to give her last name. She said she came to Freedom Park as a show of support and that "America can't keep going the way it is." She was at a protest May 29 on Beatties Ford Road and was bruised as the crowd and police squared off.

"The world is really changing, and people are really fed up," she said. "They feel like their rights are being taken away and people didn't really know how to speak up or what to do."

As the crowd grew, participants began signing a banner organizers said would go to Floyd's family. 

People signed a banner for George Floyd's family Thursday evening at Freedom Park in Charlotte.
Credit Sarah Delia / WFAE

Kass Ottley was one of the organizers.

"We want people to ... come together," Ottley said. "We want people to understand how black and brown people are feeling in the community, and we want change. We're tired of waiting."

A crowd gathers in Freedom Park on Thursday evening as Charlotte enters its seventh day of protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Credit Sarah Delia / WFAE

As the demonstration began, news came that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department had revised its policies to force officers to immediately intervene if they see another officer doing something that would "result in an excessive response to resistance or egregious behavior which shocks the conscience."

Ottley called it "a good start."

Earlier, as he was announcing CMPD's tweaked policy, Chief Kerr Putney was asked how long he thought protests might continue. 

"I don't have a crystal ball," Putney said. "I can't tell you. All I can tell you is people want to be heard and we're going to allow for that as long as it takes." 

By 6:30 p.m., the crowd at Freedom Park had broken into smaller groups to talk about safe protesting.

Iamoni McClellan, right, paints the name of Emmett Till on a board remembering victims of racist violence Thursday at Freedom Park in Charlotte.
Credit Steve Harrison / WFAE

Iamoni McClellan drove to Charlotte from Winston-Salem. She was one of several participants who painted slogans or names of people killed in racial violence onto a board. They included the names like Trayvon Martin, who was killed in Florida in 2012, and Walter Scott, who was shot to death by a police officer in South Carolina in 2015.

But McClellan painted the name of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old African American who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 in a crime that drew widespread attention and condemnation. 

"I wanted to do something that was a little older because it shows that this is something that has been going on for a while now," McClellan said.

By 9:20 p.m., a crowd that had gathered in Romare Bearden Park uptown had started marching through the streets. Marchers carried signs and chanted "no justice, no peace," and the protest remained peaceful. 

Protesters march through uptown Charlotte on Thursday night.
Credit Sarah Delia / WFAE

By 10:30, the protest had moved past CMPD headquarters and arrived at the Mecklenburg County jail. Some protesters shouted, "We love you," as lights from the jail cells flickered.   

Soon, marchers were on the move again, kneeling near the government center — many holding up fists — chanting "no justice, no peace" and "hands up, don't shoot" along with shouting Floyd's name and that of Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky, in March. 

By 11:30 p.m., the protest was still peaceful as people marched through uptown.

At the height of the protest Thursday, there were close to 500 people. Reporers on the scene described more organization than in recent days. 

Protesters stop outside the Mecklenburg County jail on Thursday night, as those jailed flicker lights.
Credit Sarah Delia / WFAE

Dashiell Coleman and Nick de la Canal contributed. 

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