Deputies arrest more than 40 people at jail support sit-in outside Mecklenburg County Jail

Updated: Jun. 18, 2020 at 8:11 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Deputies have arrested more than 40 people over a jail support setup outside the Mecklenburg County Jail in Charlotte.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s deputies had 4th Street blocked off after a group offering support for arrested protesters outside of the jail were told to leave.

Thursday evening, WBTV learned that deputies arrested 43 people during the jail support sit-in. Immediately after this happened, community members wanted to know why these people were arrested.

“We didn’t do anything,” one community member said. “We’re peaceful.”

Earlier, on Thursday morning, Charlotte Uprising tweeted that the sheriff was “trying to close our jail support program down.”

WBTV’s Caroline Hicks spoke with Sheriff Garry McFadden about why this happened.

“It was going on for weeks,” Sheriff McFadden said. “We had a great relationship, but there is an undercurrent coming in that’s going to cause a problem and that problem surfaced today.”

He said different people are coming in and out of the group and it is unclear who within the jail support group is responsible for the agitation.

“People starting to sleep overnight, bring dogs overnight, urinating on the sidewalks and human feces in the walkway,” McFadden said.

According to Sheriff McFadden, around 10 a.m., he spoke to jail supporters outside of the Mecklenburg County Detention Center and was “seeking group leadership in which no one present took ownership.”

Authorities say the group was asked to relocate Thursday by 2 p.m. and were reportedly “offered resources from Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office to safely aid in the removal of their property.”

Officials say the request came after several complaints were filed (externally and from other groups with similar interests) about the members of the group allegedly harassing visitors, employees, and impeding daily business operations of those attempting to access MCSO facilities.

“Including but not limited to spitting and banging on windows, removal of the flag, human feces in the walkway, sleeping overnight, a roaming Pitbull, blocking bus lanes and pedestrian traffic, etc,” the press release from Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office read.

Even activists acknowledge mishaps.

“I’m sure there was some kinks and complaints but that’s what a revolution is it’s not gonna be without agitation and disruption,” Kristie Puckett-Williams said.

Later Thursday, jail support moved across the street.

Sheriff McFadden said he is committed to helping them find another place to reconvene and hopes they can continue the dialogue.

“If someone says let’s have a conversation tonight, I’m here tonight,” he said. “You don’t see anybody knocking on the sheriff’s office door. They want the conflict.”

The press release from the sheriff’s office says that Sheriff McFadden allowed and supported the group to station there for roughly three weeks before any action was taken. MCSO staff reportedly were given a directive to allow the group to occupy the space, have access to the building, facilitate daily trash removal and water storage if needed.

Deputies were onsite as the group grew larger, and they reportedly asked multiple times of the group to leave the property. After this, sheriff’s deputies began arresting those who refused to leave, and a total of 43 people were arrested as a result of the incident.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said they had received a few inquiries about the jail support area, but no CMPD officers were involved.

This group, composed of mostly young people, has been staged outside the Mecklenburg County Jail every day giving support to protesters who were arrested. Members of the group say the goal is to support them while in custody (helping with bail) and throughout the court system process.

On June 5, Charlotte Uprising hosted a “People’s University” event at Freedom Park and invited the community to join and learn more about “direct action, jail support, history and context of resistance in Charlotte against police violence, and how to keep yourself and others safe at protests.”

Sheriff McFadden was at that event, and says he was invited.

“I am deeply disturbed because I support the cause of reentry into the community as it is apart of my Mission and Vision for my agency. What I cannot support is an unsafe and disruptive environment for those conducting business at MCSO facilities. I now look forward to continuing positive dialogue with members of the community as we move past this unfortunate incident,” Sheriff McFadden said.

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