More than two dozen arrested at jail support encampment outside Charlotte jail

Updated: Sep. 21, 2020 at 4:02 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - About 25 people were arrested Monday morning after attempting to set up a jail support encampment in front of the Mecklenburg County Detention Center, according to Mecklenburg County deputies.

Deputies said people from jail support showed up with supplies and tried to set up outside of the jail.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry L. McFadden says the individuals who refused to disperse upon being asked to do so were arrested – the majority being charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass.

On Sept. 5, deputies arrested five people and charged them with criminal trespassing.

The last time deputies cleared out a jail support encampment, on Sept. 11, that ignited two nights of protests in uptown Charlotte. Deputies removed individuals from the same site that had become a “center of criminal behavior and conduct that jeopardized public access to government buildings and services.”

Throughout the next week-and-a-half, officials say individuals and small groups returned with supplies and stated intentions to provide support to individuals being released from the Detention Center.

But deputies reportedly told them due to the previous irresponsible and unfit conduct of others, the encampment would not be allowed to reestablish.

The Mecklenburg County sheriff’s office says that for several weeks a group of people has been in the encampment on 4th street near the detention center and county courthouse.

The sheriff’s office alleges some people affiliated with the “jail support” operation have harassed and intimidated people in the area, littering, and one at least two occasions committed sex crimes against nature on public property.

Activists with the jail support service have denied the allegations. Organizers claim they have not committed crimes and are working to help people get back on their feet once they are released from jail.

Leaders and volunteers have said jail support is a movement that provides stations for clothes, food, temporary housing and transportation for anyone who has been in jail.

Now, sheriff’s office personnel has encouraged those individuals claiming to want to offer support to people being released from the Detention Center to contact the Sheriff’s Office Community Engagement Team to discuss sharing resources and provisions from a safe location inside the Detention Center.

Officials say to date, no one has contacted the Community Engagement Team in furtherance of such a discussion.

Sheriff McFadden provided a statement.

“If there are citizens, community leaders, faith-based or grass roots organizations who want to join in the effort to provide meaningful support for our neighbors rejoining society upon release from detention, I welcome their help and their efforts. I will give them a space within the facility to do so, in a way that does not undermine public safety or create an environment on the street that deters others from access to government buildings and services. To be clear, refusing to allow the encampment on Fourth Street to reestablish is not about quieting protests for criminal justice reform, Black Lives Matter, changes in law enforcement practices, or any of the myriad efforts along those lines that – like the concept of Jail Support – I support enthusiastically as much as I do the right to protest about them. But an encampment that repeatedly challenges public safety, public health, and public access, is very different from a peaceful protest and as such will not be tolerated,” McFadden said.

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