‘Kneel-In’ protest planned outside stadium before Panthers-Eagles game

A “Kneel-In” protest outside of tonight’s Panthers-Eagles football game was inspired by the recent police shooting of Ruben Galindo, one of the event organizers said.

The demonstration is part of a controversial movement sweeping through the country and its most popular sport. Bishop Kevin Long of Temple Church International-Charlotte said Thursday night’s event outside of Bank of America Stadium will have a local bent.

“Not only does our protest include Mr. Galindo, it was inspired by the recent discovery of his unfortunate and unnecessary demise,” Long told the Observer on Thursday.

Video of the Sept. 6 incident was released last week under a court order at the request of the Observer and the Charlotte nonprofit, Action NC.

The footage shows Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers opening fire on the 29-year-old after a brief confrontation outside his home. Police Chief Kerr Putney says lethal force was used – and justified – in the stand-off because Galindo refused to put down a gun. Galindo had his hands in the air when he was shot, less than 4 seconds after police first ordered him to drop his weapon.

Police-shooting experts who have watched the video questioned whether Galindo posed the “imminent threat” necessary to justify the use of deadly force, and whether the officers gave Galindo enough time to respond to a series of commands about his handgun. Galindo had called 911 that night to ask police to pick him up for a future court date. He also told dispatchers that he had a gun but it was not loaded. Police say the handgun recovered at the scene was empty.

The case remains under investigation by the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office and police.

“The Galindo tape is disgusting,” said Braxton Winston, a Charlotte activist and Charlotte City Council candidate. “It’s one of the most egregious forms of police-shooting videos that I’ve ever seen.”

Robert Dawkins of Action NC, who helped persuade a judge to release the footage, has complained for days on social media that the case has not drawn the attention it deserves, and urging other local groups to become publicly involved.

“Tell me what U have 2 do 2 get national coverage for police killings?” Dawkins tweeted over the weekend. “Cause I can’t figure out why nobody wants to cover Galindo case in CLT.”

Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. event at Mint and Graham streets by the new Pastors and Community Leaders Coalition might change that. Nearly 100 pastors and community leaders plan to take part in the “Kneel-In,” Long said.

The protest, which organizers say will draw participants mostly from the Carolinas, intends to highlight ongoing police brutality and social and racial injustice, just as former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did while the national anthem was played before a 2016 NFL game, Long said.

The protests at NFL games have drawn the ire of President Donald Trump and set off a coast-to-coast debate on respecting the flag vs. the players’ rights to comment on public issues.

In a statement Wednesday night, the coalition said the kneel-in aims to shed light on “police brutality, lack of accountability for officers who’ve killed innocent and/or unarmed citizens, and the high rates of unemployment for minorities.”

“This is a call for accountability,” the coalition said. “Kneeling is merely the method we have chosen, it is not the message in its entirety. The message is that there is a deep and very wide gulf between the Black and Brown communities and others in this country, and we are not compelled to stand that.”

Other kneel-in protests are scheduled in Baltimore and other cities in coming days, according to the coalition.

The last demonstrations outside the stadium followed the September 2016 shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, an African-American shot outside his home in north Charlotte. Police say Scott also refused to put down a gun.

Georgia Ferrell, the mother of a Charlotte man fatally shot by a CMPD officer in 2013, is expected to attend the Thursday night event, Long said.

According to Dawkins, the Charlotte event initially did not include the Galindo case. But he said Thursday that he has been assured by Long that the oversight has been corrected.

Long told the Observer that the protest organizers “are not excluding members of the Latino community.”

“We do not want the narrative hijacked that this is exclusively a black issue,” he said. “It’s about people of color who at a disproportionate rate have been the victims of unnecessary and unprovoked police shootings.”

Across town tonight, Putney will meet with the Latino community to discuss issues surround the shooting during a 6:30 p.m. gathering in north Charlotte.

Michael Gordon: 704-358-5095, @MikeGordonOBS

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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