Unrest in Ferguson, Mo., prompts vigil and rally in Charlotte

The uproar over a young black man’s shooting death by police in Ferguson, Mo., has stirred action 724 miles away in Charlotte, inspiring a group of residents to travel to Missouri Saturday and others to hold a prayer vigil and peace rally here in North Carolina.

John Barnett, leader of the Charlotte civil rights organization True Healing Under God, said he expects about 10 people to join him on his trip to Ferguson, though more could come. He chose not to take a plane to keep the trip more like a civil rights march with inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he said.

“We want to drive there to partake in the experience,” he said. The group plans to meet with police and attend a local church service Sunday. Barnett said he is not afraid of the law enforcement presence and has participated in other protests with police before.

“I’ve been doing civil rights for 13 years,” he said. “The only fear I have is that there will be more bloodshed. It’s very important that we resolve this.”

For those who can’t travel to Ferguson, there are other ways to get involved. Residents can pray for Brown’s family and build stronger relationships between their own communities and police, he said.

One prayer vigil has been put together by Mario Black, head of the group Million Youth March of Charlotte, and Pastor Mark Evans of Jonahville A.M.E. Zion Church in Huntersville. Local leaders will speak and Evans will lead a prayer at the church at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Charlotte rapper King Carter, who released a tribute to Michael Brown, will also be at the vigil. Barnett said Carter will be a part of the group traveling to Ferguson.

The event sprang from people contacting Million Youth March.

“Originally, when it first happened, I wasn’t going to do anything,” Black said. “But last week my phone was ringing about people wanting to know what we would do.

“We’re encouraging young people to come and parents to bring their youth of all ages.”

One speaker will talk to young people about how to handle interactions with police to avoid conflict, Black said.

On Friday, Johnson C. Smith University is holding a peace rally with students, poets, a poster signing and a candlelight vigil. That event is at 6:30 p.m. at the campus just west of uptown Charlotte and is open to the public.

Moral Mondays, the familiar North Carolina protests, are being expanded to Moral Week of Action, a seven-day protest of the state legislature in Raleigh starting Friday.

The Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP and a leader of Moral Mondays, said in a video posted Monday that the peaceful protests have attracted attention from people in Missouri.

“We’ve been asked about coming down to Ferguson and having some conversations with people,” Barber said. “They’ve said that the Moral Monday movement is a model that they need in that community.”

North Carolinians frustrated with what has happened in Ferguson should turn to local elections, he said.

“You’ve got a lot of young people that say they’re angry about what they saw in Ferguson, so let them know this,” he said. “Mayors and city councils hire police chiefs. People elect mayors and city councils. So if you’re concerned about who the police chief is, you need to be organized and registered to vote.”