Local & State
|Peaceful protest in south Charlotte sends strong message|
|March organized by young activist|
|Published Tuesday, June 2, 2020 10:25 pm|
|PHOTO | LINDSAY CURETON|
|A protester holds a sign at a march at Morrison Drive and Barclay Downs Drive in south Charlotte Monday. The procession organized by Autumn Dixon was in response to last week's police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.|
When she organized Monday’s march in south Charlotte, Dixon, 20, had two goals: call attention to extrajudicial killings of African Americans like George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota and do so without the violence.
“We don’t want this to be anything but peaceful,” Dixon told marchers, her voice amplified through a bullhorn.
A sizeable crowd composed of protestors clad in black attire and face masks, police, and news crews gathered at the corner of Morrison Boulevard and Barclay Downs Drive, holding signs and fists high in the air. For an hour, they alternated chanting “I Can’t Breathe,” “No More Hashtags” and “Life Over Property.” Halfway through the march route, the protestors knelt and quieted. Fists were again raised, and for nine minutes the call and response “Say his name – George Floyd” and “Nine minutes, I can’t breathe” reverberated.
Passersby honked horns, raised their fists, and recorded video out of their windows to show support. One man angrily flashed an obscene gesture before speeding off. Undeterred, protestors raised their signs higher: “Who do you call when police murder?” “Don’t [obscenity] with our freedom” and “America’s really fortunate that black people only want equality, not revenge.”
Protester Merriwether Liamn cited South African Bishop Desmond Tutu on a sign that read, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
“I’ve been feeling sick to my stomach with how awful all of this is ... It’s about every single black life that has been lost over the years, and silence is violence,” Liamn said. She wants to see a change in policing that includes community policing, training in de-escalation, and demilitarizing the police.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police were stationed along Morrison Boulevard, monitoring and participating in the procession. Officers were dispersed amongst the crowd and initiated conversations with protestors. They inquired about concerns and demands for change.
Officer Rafael Garcia, a 13-year CMPD veteran, spoke proudly of the relationships the police have built with Charlotte communities and echoed Chief Kerr Putney’s earlier statements that police should be held accountable.
“We’re here with you guys,” Garcia affirmed.
Garcia condemned the maneuver used by Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin and was upset at Chauvin’s partners’ lack of action. Two autopsies ruled Floyd’s death a homicide due to asphyxiation when Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes.
“We [at CMPD] hold each other accountable,” he said. “There have been times when we have to de-escalate a situation and sometimes adrenaline can get the best of somebody and we always check that. ...I’ve never seen anyone not hold anyone else accountable for their actions.”
Since Floyd’s death on May 25, combined with the recent deaths of Ahmaud Abrey, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade among others, protests and riots have sprung up across the country. Charlotte has had at least one protest daily since May 29. Some have ended in injuries, arrests and property damage. Dixon’s didn’t.
“At first I was so nervous,” she said. “I was scared … I don’t want anyone to be hurt in my hands … now that it’s all over and it was peaceful and everyone feels like they got their point across and they could be heard, I feel ecstatic.”
Hadiya Presswood is a junior journalism major at Howard University and graduate of Cato Middle College High School in Charlotte.
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