CHARLOTTE, N.C. — More than 100 protesters took to Independence Square and marched down Uptown’s Tryon St. on Tuesday evening, speaking out against police brutality and injustices they say have led to failed indictments in cases where police have killed unarmed black men.
The Charlotte Activist Collective, a group whose organizers primarily identify as LGBT, organized the Tuesday event. They say issues such as racism and LGBT civil rights are all connected.
“If we plan to change the system as a whole, we have to change the system together,” said Blake Brockington, an 18-year-old transgender student who made news last spring as East Mecklenburg High School’s first transgender homecoming king. “We have to address all these problems at once — misogyny, patriarchy, LGBT issues, race issues. We have to address everything at once if we plan to change the system at all.”
Brockington and his group led the large group of protesters in chants before moving into the intersection at Trade & Tryon Sts. Lines of protesters blocked each of the four sides of the square as police stood by blocking oncoming traffic. More than a dozen lied down on Independence Square in a “die in” as five protesters stood in the middle, heads down and fists raised. LGBT Community Center of Charlotte Programs Chair Tamika Lewis, draped in a U.S. flag, were among the five standing protesters.
The die-in — symbolically representing the deaths of unarmed black men killed in police interactions — continued as the group entered a four-and-a-half minute moment of silence, representing the four-and-a-half hours Michael Brown laid in the street after being shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo., in August.
The protesters sang “Lift Every Voice” and “We Shall Overcome” along with chants of “If we don’t get no justice, they they don’t get no peace,” “Black Lives Matter,” “No justice, No Peace, No Racist Ass Police.”
Unexpectedly, organizers then began walking south down Tryon St. — something not previously announced to those who had joined the protest nor, apparently, to police.
“This was not in the plan. This is how people get hurt,” a police officer was overheard telling a protester.
Police officers kept standing traffic on one side of the street already stopped by the protest at the square stopped as the group marched by.
The group marched and chanted in the street, declining a police officer’s request to move to the sidewalk. Group leaders then began chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets!”
The marching group turned right on Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. and continued their march to Romare Bearden Park, where they paused for a few comments and announcements for future actions.
The group plans on attending a Dec. 13 rally in Bladenboro, N.C., where in August, Lennon Lacy, a 17-year-old African American teen, was found hanging a child’s swing set in a primarily white trailer park. The NAACP has called on the federal government to investigate the questionable death.
The event was peaceful. No arrests were reported.
In addition to the LGBT organizers, other LGBT community members and organizations were well represented at the event. Leaders from the LGBT Democrats of Mecklenburg County, Charlotte LGBT center and Charlotte Business Guild, as well as other groups and leaders, attended and participated.