Crime & Courts

Young protesters target criminal-justice system

Wearing mostly black and shouting “No justice, no peace,” more than 50 people showed up at Marshall Park on Wednesday night to protest what they called an unfair criminal-justice system that goes easy on police officers who shoot and kill blacks.

The Charlotte Blackout Rally, organized by young members of the Charlotte branch of the National Action Network, was a prelude of sorts to a march planned Thursday before a court hearing for Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Randall Kerrick.

Kerrick is charged with voluntary manslaughter, accused of fatally shooting Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed black man, in September 2013.

Organizers also tried to gain momentum for a proposed Charlotte civil rights ordinance. The ordinance would limit profiling by police and put restrictions on surveillance and data collection.

Activist Robert Dawkins said the march is a sign that a younger generation is taking notice of social issues.

“My parents had the civil rights movement, but there hasn’t been this galvanizing issue in most young people’s lifetime,” he said. “They’re seeing that it’s important to bring about social change – it’s their responsibility in society. It’s not just about going to school to get the house and the car. It’s about the responsibility to fight for human rights.”

One of the speakers in Marshall Park was City Manager Ron Carlee, who told the Observer he was invited by organizers.

“City leaders are listening to you,” Carlee told the crowd. “We’re taking into account the issues you’ve brought up. … We care about what you’re saying, and we care about these issues.”

Ferrell’s killing has been held up alongside the killings of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York as evidence of a criminal-justice system tilted in favor of police officers. The officers in the three killings are white.

Brown was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9. On Nov. 24, a prosecutor announced that the grand jury had elected not to charge Wilson with a crime.

Several days later, a grand jury in New York City decided not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the killing of Garner. In July, Pantaleo used a banned chokehold to subdue Garner, who can be heard on a video recording repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe.”