Members of Charlotte’s clergy marched through uptown Wednesday afternoon on the one-year anniversary of protests that rocked the city after the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.
“We have one mission: to bring about justice in this world,” said the Rev. Amantha Barbee, pastor of Statesville Avenue Presbyterian and head of the sponsoring Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice.
The clergy coalition and MeckMin, an interfaith group, called the march a “Walk of Accountability.” Clergy members wore yellow armbands, as they did during last year’s protests that left one protester dead.
Police estimated that about 75 clergy and supporters took part in a march that began at Marshall Park.
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Marchers represented many faith traditions, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist. Barbee prayed to God: “We call you by different names, but we call you.”
A prayer was said at four sites that were significant during the protests: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department headquarters, the Hyatt House hotel, the Omni hotel and The Square.
On the steps of police headquarters, Rabbi Dusty Klass of Temple Beth El blew the shofar, or ram’s horn, likening the sound to sobs but also solidarity.
The Rev. Greg Jarrell of QC Family Tree delivered the prayer, asking God, “How long will (CMPD be a place) of military-grade weapons for neighbors to use against neighbors?”
The march was among several commemorations of the Scott shooting, which turned critical eyes on police relations with the black community. More than 2,000 community leaders and organizations later signed a statement on the need for change and their commitment to social justice.
Some clergy members lamented Wednesday that too little had changed since then.
Ayya Bhikkhuni Sudhamma of the Charlotte Buddhist Vihara, however, said she has faith in police Chief Kerr Putney to move police in the right direction. Putney, she said, has the “opportunity to do what he wants to bring (police) forward.”
At the Hyatt, Imam John Ederer of the Muslim Community Center of Charlotte said, “Our hearts are broken, our hearts are stained from years of oppression in this land.”
The Rev. Peter Wherry of Mayfield Memorial Baptist Church called the front of the hotel “sacred ground.” To his fellow clergy and others, he added: “No person is praying who is not willing to be the answer to their prayers. May we pray with our feet … with our hands … with our minds … with ourselves.”
Facing the garage of the Omni, where protester Justin Carr was shot and killed on the second night of protests, the Rev. Steve Knight’s voice cracked with emotion as he recalled the tear gas and gunfire there a year earlier. Knight prayed that “these black lives matter” as much to the city of Charlotte as they do to God.
The Rev. Jay Leach of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte also recalled the scene a year ago. He said the protests then and Wednesday’s march are both about “broken trust between this community and its police force.”
The last stop on the clergy walk was the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets, in the shadows of uptown’s tall bank towers.
The Rev. John Cleghorn, now pastor of Caldwell Presbyterian Church, had some hard words for Charlotte’s business community – the one he belonged to for 18 years, when he worked for Bank of America high up in two of the skyscrapers.
Cleghorn said some of the responsibility for the lack of progress in the year since the Scott shooting and the protests “lies right here at the corner of Trade or Tryon.”
Right now, Cleghorn said, “a lot of important people” in the business community are probably busy trying to convince Amazon to locate its second headquarters in Charlotte.
“People in these towers are hard at work right now making our city as pretty as she can be, polishing her up, putting lipstick on her,” Cleghorn told the crowd. “But shame on them and shame on us if we don’t take care of the people who live here now first. Shame on Charlotte if we can’t deal with the systemic racism that is bedrock in our economy. Shame on Charlotte if we do not find a way to feed and house all of our labor.”
The march ended with the Rev. Dwayne Walker, pastor of Little Rock AME Zion Church, leading the group in singing a traditional folk ballad long popular with faith-based protesters.
“This little light of mine,” they sang, “I’m gonna let it shine.”
The march was the latest in a week-long series of events and news relating to the Scott shooting and the protests.
About 100 Charlotteans gathered Tuesday night at the Levine Museum of the New South for a meal and candid discussions about the need for social change in Charlotte.
Wednesday afternoon Scott’s widow, Rakeyia Scott, spoke to the media at the University City apartment complex where he was killed on Sept. 20, 2016.
In an Observer interview, Rakeyia Scott criticized the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, saying “my husband didn’t deserve to die.”