Itwas at 2 p.m. Saturday that Nia James showed up outside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in uptown, with a pink sign that said “Black Lives Matter.”
She was a lone protester, but that didn’t matter. The mistrial declared Friday in the shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell had struck a nerve. She didn’t care if anyone else showed up.
But more did, resulting in a racially mixed crowd of about 45 people that eventually settled a block from Bank of American Stadium, where the group waved signs and chanted.
“I didn’t care if it was just me. I had to do something, or I would have been a hypocrite,” said James, 17.
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“I just want to see if I can reach people who care as much as I do. Charlotte is a place where people say they’re upset about something, but never leave the house to take a stand. To change the world, you have to leave the house.”
The loud, but peaceful protests Saturday stood in contrast to Friday, when rocks were thrown at police (two were struck but not seriously injured) and traffic was disrupted.
Two protesters were arrested Friday: Harry Sawyer, 17, charged with carrying a concealed weapon, disorderly conduct and assault on a government employee. And Stevonta Mackey, 21, arrested by G4 Security and charged with resisting a public officer, assault on a campus police officer, public disturbance, communicating threats and assault on a public transit operator.
Saturday’s protesters gained steam at 6 p.m. and were focused on getting the attention of Carolina Panthers fans headed to the team’s game against the Miami Dolphins. One moment of confrontation occurred when a fan yelled: “When police say ‘stop,’ just stop!” A protester with a bandana around his face charged into the street at the fan, but was pulled back by two other protesters.
The group left the spot shortly after the game began and marched around uptown, and continued several hours of marching. Nearly two dozen police on bikes followed along.
“Our message is about peace and justice,” said Numeh Kolleh, 24, who lives not far from where Ferrell was shot 10 times by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick in 2013.
“Some say it’s about black lives mattering, but it’s about all lives mattering, black and white. Imagine if that shooting involved your son, your cousin or your father. It would matter to you. It should matter to all of us.”
Joe Marusak contributed.