Protesters block Tryon Street, where Black Lives Matter mural is painted, after it reopened for traffic

Updated: Nov. 10, 2020 at 11:19 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Dozens of people have blocked traffic on an uptown Charlotte road where a “Black Lives Matter” mural was painted.

Charlotte City Council voted to reopen the road for traffic starting Tuesday.

However, groups of people were protesting on Tryon Street, between 3rd and 4th streets, where barricades were removed.

The road had been closed for traffic for months after local artists painted the mural on the street following shootings of Black men at the hands of police officers.

Protesters were peaceful Tuesday night and told WBTV’s Ron Lee they were having a dance party.

Those protesting had wanted the City of Charlotte to continue to preserve the BLM mural.

On Monday, Charlotte City Council voted to reopen Tryon Street between 3rd and 4th Streets after business owners complained that it was impacting their revenues.

That portion of Tryon St. was closed to vehicular traffic shortly after the Black Lives Matter mural was painted there.

The street closure was never intended to be permanent and was part of a pilot project moved forward by city staff to find more pedestrian-friendly options for residents and Uptown and to protect the BLM mural from vandalism.

Councilman Braxton Winston was the only member to vote against reopening the street.

“By opening up the street and letting the BLM mural fade away we’re saying that McCormick and Schmick’s valet matters more than Black lives right now,” Winston said.

But Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt and Councilman Malcolm Graham said the decision was not about the businesses but about the people who work at the businesses.

The owner of McCormick and Schmick’s, which sits on the portion of Tryon that is closed, said that his company has lost revenue since the street closure.

Planning Director Taiwo Jaiyeoba said that the City has not been actively maintaining the mural since it’s been closed to vehicular traffic but that they would do a better job once cars are allowed on that portion of the street again.

However, he said that the mural would likely fade away due to weather and wear before the city plans to repave the street in 2021.

Many community members are calling for the street to be closed again. One of those is community organizer Brody, who runs the organization Caats Collective.

“Black peoples voices are not heard," she said. “When you get something like this that’s like ‘Wow you’re really doing this for us.’ It’s uplifting.”

She’s organized a demonstration for Tuesday night to hopefully start a conversation on closing the street again.

Some business owners and managers are open to that idea.

Emerson Joseph is a boutique barber shop on the street. They say they lost business and customers as well during the closure. But say they like the idea of a pedestrian street that brings the greater charlotte community and the business community together,

“We are supporters of it. But next time let’s make sure we do it in an organized and well thought out fashion," said Alison Crawford with Emerson Jospeh. "Combination of culture and helping the business to come out on to the street. Helping the restaurants out onto the street. I think if it was a little bit more organized and the strategy was put in place prior, I think it could be a great option for everyone.

Councilman Larken Egleston and others also voiced support for finding a more permanent solution to creating a pedestrian-friendly plaza in Uptown.

“I just don’t think that what we’ve done was set up for long-term success," Egleston said.

“I’m asking that we find a way to make it a larger, more successful, more holistic project,” Egleston said.

Jaiyeoba said that the City is making long-term plans to make a more pedestrian-friendly plaza on Tryon St permanently. Jaiyeoba said there is a committee working toward implementing that project, similar to what many other cities have.

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