Another African-American man was shot by police Wednesday evening, and by Thursday afternoon Charlotte residents were ready to rally, even in the rain.
The shootings of Philando Castile, in Falcon Heights, Minn., and Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, La., inspired about 250 protesters to meet outside the Time Warner Cable arena with signs around 5 p.m. The group marched on Trade and Church streets to Romare Bearden Park. There, they formed a circle to chant and share feelings through a megaphone.
The second group marched around the intersection of Trade and Tryon, blocking traffic, between 10 and 11 p.m. They also chanted and carried signs.
“I believe in prayer, and I believe in protests,” protester Anna Parks said to the crowd as they joined hands in a circle on the sidewalk. “But there comes a time when you gotta shut it down.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Major Gerald Smith said the police coordinated with the first group to block intersections to allow them to march safely, while the second group’s goal was to shut down the streets. Smith said he isn’t sure if the two groups are affiliated.
“Although they were peaceful, we were trying to encourage them to not take over the street, allow traffic to flow,” Smith said. “It’s not gonna affect your message if you just stay on the sidewalk.”
A group of about 20 protesters remained on the sidewalk at 11 p.m. Smith said police would allow them to stay there as long as they did not become disruptive.
“I have a message for the CMPD,” one woman said in the earlier protest, referring to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. “We are not violent, we are peaceful … but I don’t want to see our people’s blood running in the streets.”
Protesters held signs reading “Why is being black a crime” and “It has got to stop.”
They gathered again at about 7 p.m. in the Epicentre on Trade Street, according to WBTV, the Observer’s news partner.
Sierra Arnold, 16, said she helped organize the rally through fliers and social media.
“I just think it’s not fair, and something needs to happen,” Arnold said. “It’s not about posting on Instagram anymore; you have to make a change.”
Rachel Herzog: 704-358-5358 @rachel_herzog