Despite the 80 degree heat and much of the student body away from campus due to summer vacation, hundreds of UNC Charlotte community members participated in the student-organized “UNCC March Against Injustice” on Saturday, June 6, one of many Black Lives Matter protests across the nation.
“Let the government know that we won’t tolerate racism anymore,” said student organizer Josh Mason at the close of Saturday’s march.
The march was started as a call for justice by several UNC Charlotte students. Those students created a digital flyer and began sharing it across social media. Although they did not originally anticipate a large turnout, the event started gaining traction on Instagram and Twitter. On June 6, hundreds of the UNC Charlotte community came to show their support.
Among the attendees were Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Christine Davis and District 5 Mecklenburg County Commissioner Susan B. Harden.
"If you are here for anything other than peace, then leave. We don’t want you here," said Mason minutes before the march began. “We understand that there is frustration, but at the end of the day, we need to come together rather than divide.”
The marchers met outside the Five Guys off of North Tryon Street. The lot had two stations prepared with free food, drinks and water donated by students and local businesses. Masks were also given out to ensure the safety of everyone present.
The student organizers made arrangements with Baker prior to the march.
"Chief Baker was very helpful,” said Pruthul Patel, one of the organizers. “He helped set up a lot. He got us in connection with people that could help us even further.”
Baker attended the match in civilian clothing along with several other unmarked officers.
Not everyone was pleased with the officers' presence. According to a series of tweets from user domdom-dev, one of the march's original organizers, she left the group days before the event after finding out that unmarked officers would be in attendance. She also claimed that the organizers were keeping the CMPD's presence a secret from the public.
The march started at approximately 1:30 p.m. The three-mile route had been pre-planned by the organizers, and roads had already been cleared by police.
The marchers started on North Tryon Street and headed northeast. Their chants were matched by the supportive honks of passing cars. Taking up two lanes, the crowd stretched over a fifth of a mile in size.
At the intersection of North Tryon Street and East Mallard Creek Church Road, the marchers took a knee. Several black students spoke invoking the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
The crowd took a right unto East Mallard Creek Church Road and continued chanting.
Several small stations were plotted along the route for marchers to restock on water.
Behind the crowd, several police cars followed filled with water bottles for the marchers. Trained paramedics were present and ready to deliver aid if necessary.
Everyone took their next break on John Kirk Drive. Gary Mason, one of the organizer's father, spoke during this time about ensuring the safety of the attendees while marching in the summer heat.
The marchers took another right onto University City Blvd. As they got closer to the main university entrance, one marcher started chanting "fuck the police," but was silenced by the rest of the group before its second round.
The group entered campus through its main entrance. They walked past the library to Belk Plaza. Here, they took their final break before the final stretch of the march.
The crowd moved to Craver Road by cutting between the Smith and Burson buildings.
The volume of the chanting increased as the marchers approached Popp Martin Student Union.
As the crowd arrived, the chants that had often been disjointed due to the march's length now sounded like a collective voice.
The march ended with the organizers sharing their final thoughts. Student Alexis Reads read a self-written poem titled “I Can’t Breathe.”
Snacks, water and packed lunches were available at the end of the march.
Correction: A previous version of the article stated that Chief Baker was not in attendance during the march. However, further research has confirmed his presence. The correction has been made, and the Niner Times team will continue to strive for accuracy in their reporting in the future.