On Saturday, June 6, UNC Charlotte students and community members will march peacefully from the JW Clay Blvd Station to the Popp Martin Student Union in solidarity with the protesters across the world demanding police accountability and racial justice.
The event is organized by Josh Mason (‘22), Pruthu Patel (‘22) and Kyle Uy (‘23) in response to the murder of George Floyd, one of many recent instances of racially-motivated violence and police brutality.
“As college students we have been quiet collectively, but over social media our influence has been strong,” said Mason in an interview with the Niner Times. “Especially with Charlotte, with everything we’ve been through in the past, I’ve seen how much we can come together and I just wanted to keep that tradition going by using our platform as students.”
Mason said that over 70 students reached out to him after he initially advertised the peaceful demonstration on social media. Students are also donating money to the cause, and businesses like Popbar CLT, What the Fries, Cuzzo’s Cuisine and Leah and Louise’s are providing free water and food. UNC Charlotte will also provide face masks for those who plan to march.
Dean of Students Christine Davis says she plans to attend. In a statement to the Niner Times, Davis said, “In line with my personal and professional values, it is important for me to support the voices and actions of students who are working to bring attention to ongoing injustices faced by Black and Brown individuals, as well as other underrepresented members of the community. I am continually learning how to be actively anti-racist and an ally, and one of the ways to do that is to show up for others.”
Protesters have gathered in Uptown Charlotte every night since May 29, but this will be the first demonstration in the University area. Some of these protests have turned violent, mostly due to instigation by the police, who have used tactics like cornering nonviolent protestors in a parking garage and shooting them with pepper balls. Mason emphasizes that this will be a peaceful march, saying he hopes participants will be safe from police violence since it’s a student-led march.
UNC Charlotte Chief of Police Jeffrey Baker plans to march along with 10–15 other officers who will not be in uniform. Baker says he doesn’t want to give the appearance that the police are “in charge” and instead wants to support the students.
“It is my belief that the voice of our students is critical in setting the tone of change for the future. Equally important is that our officers fully support the vision of our student organizers and show solidarity against police brutality,” said Baker.
“I also believe that one key step, although not a panacea, is to require police departments to seek national accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) or IACLEA.”
Participants will meet in the Five Guys parking lot, although the organizers stress that people should not park there and should instead park in the CRI deck or light rail parking garage.