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The Voice of the Black Community

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Kneel in, stand up
Charlotte protest opens new advocacy front
Published Tuesday, October 17, 2017 9:19 pm
by Herbert L. White

Charlotte clergy and activists staged a “kneel-in” last week in front of Bank of America Stadium to call attention to police violence against African Americans as well as the rights of National Football League players to protest during the playing of the national anthem. The Charlotte kneel-in was the first organized by activists, which was followed by a protest in Baltimore.

Charlotte is to the kneel-in movement what Greensboro is to sit-ins.

Last week’s protest against police brutality and economic disparity before the Carolina Panthers-Philadelphia Eagles game at Bank of America Stadium, was a response to what the organizers call “disparities and disparate treatment that continues to marginalize people of color in America.” The kneel-in was the first of its kind in the country, and organizers are looking to turn it into a national protest.

“The participation was good, not great, given the brevity of time we were able to pull the kneel-in together,” said Bishop Kevin Long, pastor at Temple Church International. “We were pleased with the turnout. The response was mixed. We got everything from ‘thank you for doing this’ to we were spotlight-seekers.”

The group of clergy and activists, Pastors and Community Leaders Coalition, said they’re using the protest to shed light in social and economic gaps people of color face. The similarities between the sit-ins of the 1960s, sparked by students at N.C. A&T State University, and last week’s kneel-in draw from historic grievances African Americans have  voiced about economic and social disparities.

“We were inspired by the sit-ins of that era,” Long said. “The parallels are obvious. The protest was peaceful and we were able to highlight issues of social injustice that exist in this day.”

Sitting or kneeling before and during the national anthem among athletes has become a national conversation last year when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat to protest police brutality against African Americans. Since then, the movement has grown as more NFL players joined the protests, which resulted in a rebuke from President Donald Trump, who urged team owners to fire any “son of a bitch” who refused to stand for the anthem.

“Our purpose for kneeling that particular night shed a light on the issues Colin Kaepernick took a knee on Sept. 1, 2016 in protest against,” Long said. ”Secondly, we were taking a knee in proxy of NFL players who were all but forbidden to protest. If that continues, if the right to exercise their First Amendment rights for the football players is not honored, we’ll do it again.”

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who kneeled with his players and coaches before a game two weeks ago, reversed course this week by threatening to bench anyone who refused to stand.

The Panthers have mostly stood on the sidelines during the anthem, with the exception of defensive end Julius Peppers, who remained in the locker room before the Sept. 24 game against New Orleans.

The league and NFL Players Association met Tuesday to address the issue.

“There has been no change in the current policy regarding the anthem,” the NFL and NFLPA said in a joint statement before the meeting. “The agenda will be a continuation of how to make progress on the important social issues that players have vocalized. Everyone who is part of our NFL community has a tremendous respect for our country, our flag, our anthem and our military, and we are coming together to deal with these issues in a civil and constructive way.”

Long said there’ll be more kneel-ins. Baltimore activists organized a kneel-in before last week’s Ravens game and activists plan a protest at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, home of the Cowboys.

“As it pertains to this particular issue, it’s our stance that if changes are not made, if our requests are not honored to enter into dialogue with the Panthers and the NFL and CMPD for partnerships to address issues of social injustice and the like, then we will continue,” Long said.


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