Politics & Government

Why a Keith Lamont Scott shooting protester brought a painting to court

Jonathan Redfern brought art to court

Arrested during September demonstrations, Charlotte artist says he was inspired by what he saw that night and what the city can become.
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Arrested during September demonstrations, Charlotte artist says he was inspired by what he saw that night and what the city can become.

A steady stream of those arrested during the demonstrations and violence that followed the Sept. 20 shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott continued their march Wednesday through the Mecklenburg County courts.

More than a dozen appeared throughout the day before Magistrate Kahlif Rhodes. Many of them faced “failure to disperse charges,” a misdemeanor that carries up to 60 days in jail.

“Sixty days?” said a surprised Terrence Terrell, who also faces larceny and vehicle breaking and entering charges from the nights of the protest, which followed Scott’s shooting death at the hands of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police.

Terrell told the judge he already had an attorney for a Nov. 28 court hearing, but he wanted Rhodes’ help getting rid of a monitoring device on his ankle.

Sorry, Rhodes said. That’s a different case.

The investigation of the Scott shooting continues. A second fatal shooting – the Sept. 21 killing of Justin Carr – occurred in the middle of the protests and sent a wave of violence across the city. Prosecutors and police say another man at the scene has admitted to the Carr shooting. Groups of activists still allege that Carr also died from a police bullet.

In all, more than 100 arrests were made. Dozens of defendants face charges ranging from assault and an array of looting-related crimes. Dozens more faces protest-related charges such as curfew violations and impeding traffic.

A spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office said prosecutors “will apply the same standards of analysis prosecutors use in every case. Prosecutors will evaluate each one on a case-by-case basis to determine how to proceed.”

Charlotte artist Jonathan Redfern was arrested Sept. 21 while leading a chant of “Love, Love, Love” in front of a line of riot police. A video shows an officer bear-hugging Redfern from behind and pulling him behind the wall of other officers. Redfern was charged with failure to disperse.

Wednesday, the 26-year-old waited for several hours to stand before Rhodes, but his name was never called. A painting that he had done of the Charlotte skyline, which he said had been inspired by the events surrounding his arrest, leaned up against the row of seats in front of him.

Outside the courthouse, he said he brought the painting to court because it made him feel safer. He says the artwork captures the beauty and diversity of Charlotte, and gives a glimpse of what he thinks the city can become.

Just before lunch, Najah McEntire entered Rhodes’ cramped corner courtroom with her 1-year-old son Brian beside her – temporarily, it turned out, as the toddler tried to dance out the door as his mother faced the judge.

McEntire, too, faces a failure to disperse charge, and has a court date in January. Afterward, she said she doesn’t quite understand how she got there. On Sept. 21, she said she was involved in the peaceful protest at Marshall Park with some friends. They headed uptown, turned a corner, “and then I’m walking into riot gear,” she said.

The stay-at-home mother said she held her ground and kept her hands raised as police sent rounds of smoke canisters into the crowd. When she eventually was led away, she said one of her arresting officers shouted in her ear. “Are you proud of yourself? Are you f------ satisfied?” She said she did not look up or respond.

Later in the paddy wagon, she said she told another officer that she knew he had a job to do and that at the end of the day, “both of us just want to go home.”

“I’m glad you understand that,” she said the officer replied.

McEntire elaborated on the point during a phone conversation Wednesday afternoon while Brian was napping.

“Listen, police are not the enemy. If someone wants to hurt me, I’m going to call police,” she said.

“... The reason I was there (in the streets) was to peacefully acknowledge that something needs to happen, to make my presence known, to have my voice heard, that something needs to resonate in your minds, whoever you are, that our lives matter, too.”

She said she still harbors hope that her charge is dismissed.

“I didn’t throw anything. I didn’t spit. I didn’t throw a punch,” she said.

“I stood there.”

Michael Gordon: 704-358-5095, @MikeGordonOBS