Justice Walk 2020: Charlotte protesters organize peaceful march to bring awareness to racism, injustice

Justice Walk 2020: Protesters organize ‘peaceful, family-friendly’ march to bring awareness to racism, injustice

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Hundreds of protesters gathered in a Charlotte park for a march organizers say was intended to “bring awareness to racism, injustice and police accountability.”

“A Justice Walk for George Floyd” started at Freedom Park near the tennis court and went three miles through neighboring communities, including Dilworth and Myers Park.

This past weekend, protests and riots erupted across the country, seeking justice for Floyd, an unarmed black man, who died while in police custody in Minneapolis. Organizers wanted this Justice Walk for George Floyd to be powerful, emotional and unifying.

The march stopped at Queens Road and Selwyn Avenue where everyone knelt for nine minutes and shouted, “I can’t breathe.” Those were the words George Floyd said to former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin who knelt on Floyd’s neck and back while being recorded on video by onlookers.

The peaceful protest march stopped at Queens Road and Selwyn Avenue where everyone knelt for nine minutes and shouted, “I can’t breathe.”
The peaceful protest march stopped at Queens Road and Selwyn Avenue where everyone knelt for nine minutes and shouted, “I can’t breathe.” (Source: Nate Wimberly/WBTV)

Organizers advertised this protest to be “family-friendly” without violence. Protesters loudly shouted chants - as hundred in attendance displayed signs, expressing their emotions and reaction to the recent events of police brutality.

Police officers marched with the protesters, and some even knelt with the group.

Hundreds of people -- from all backgrounds and ages -- attended the gathering. Organizers even handed out snacks and water.

Jerome Spratley told WBTV he and his 8-year-old son traveled from Concord to attend the event.

“I want to make sure that my son is able to understand and grow up to be a man, and not be afraid of police officers and understand that they are to help,” said Spratley.

SouthPark residents K.B. and Mary Beth McIntyre also attended the special walk.

“This is our duty as Americans. I’m a patriot. Our family are patriots and we believe that everyone should have the universal right to have the same justice as everybody else," said McIntyre.

Carolina Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson tweeted about the march Monday and urged others to attend with him.

“Don’t talk about it, be about it!! U want justice and the system to change show up and Walk with Us!! FOR GEORGE AND ALL THE OTHERS WHO WHERE KILLED BY POLICE BRUTALITY. IMA BE THERE,” Thompson tweeted.

Thompson was seen marching with protesters Monday evening.

Carolina Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson marching during "Charlotte's Justice Walk for George Floyd"
Carolina Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson marching during "Charlotte's Justice Walk for George Floyd" (Source: Nate Wimberly/WBTV)

Organizers said the purpose of the walk was to unify people of Charlotte during a time of civil unrest.

“We will no longer stand by and watch our people be killed,” organizers said. “Together, we can create change. It’s going to take all of us.”

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden participated, handing out face coverings to those who needed one. Sheriff McFadden spoke spoke with WBTV Friday, on the first night of protests in Charlotte.

“We, a couple of African-American sheriffs, are denouncing the actions of the officers in Minneapolis. We made a video that we denounced the action of these officers across America who continuously put us in these situations, that we are going to have to defend our careers and defend our community,” Sheriff McFadden said.

Protesters were asked to wear a mask and comfortable walking shoes, along with bringing water and signs. Several WBTV reporters tweeted about the size of the crowds participating in the march.

CMPD tweeted during the march, applauding it as a “lawful protest."

“The CMPD is dedicated to an inclusive and unified community and is resolute on working with the community to create a safe and healthy environment for all,” the tweet said.

Around 9 p.m., the department tweeted that the protest at Freedom Park concluded in peace, expressing appreciation for the community’s cooperation.

Copyright 2020 WBTV. All rights reserved.