CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An activist group created to keep police accountable held an event on Sunday to teach people about their mission and ways to get involved.
Charlotte Uprising’s Juneteenth People’s University commemorated June 19, 1865, when Texas slaves learned the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation had freed them.
“We are continuing that historic resistance led by Black people today, and with People’s University, this is just one way we can do that work,” Charlotte Uprising Organizer Ash Williams said.
Through breakout sessions, organizers also wanted to educate people about the group’s efforts to end police brutality.
During the workshops, organizers talked about protesting, steps to take when arrested, alternatives to calling the police, and ways to provide resources to people who have been released from jail.
“These events also allow us to do political education. Direct action is amazing, asking people to go protest is amazing, and even jail support is amazing but not without some kind of knowledge or education to go along with it,” Williams said.
Leigh Robbins attended the event, hoping to learn more about how she can be part of the solution.
“I’ve lived in Charlotte just about my entire life. I think it’s past time for us to take a stand and emerge as a leader in the country,” Robbins said.
Sean Dougherty also attended Juneteenth People’s University about being unhappy with the status quo.
Dougherty said he had an issue with a June 2 incident involving protesters and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police.
Back then, protesters accused CMPD officers of trapping them in Uptown after deploying pepper bullets and chemical agents to disperse the crowd.
According to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, protesters had two clear escape routes, and even though smoke was visible in both areas, officers didn’t block protesters. Despite the findings, Dougherty is disturbed by the incident.
“Like a lot of people, I was very moved and disturbed everything going on in the world, in this case, a little bit more specifically, just the police violence in Charlotte,” Dougherty said. “I’ve always had an issue of how our criminal justice system is run, and I’m just trying to find my place and what I can actually do and help.”
Dougherty and Robbins are interested in becoming involved with jail support. Those volunteers give food, water to people recently released from jail and connect them to resources.
“I have a son, and I don’t want him to grow up and say ‘Mom, what did you do? When people were suffering, and people were being killed in the streets, what did you do?” Robbins said.
On Thursday, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office arrested 43 people conducting jail support.
Sheriff Gary McFadden said he asked the group to relocate after receiving complaints claiming they were behaving inappropriately. Therefore, he said when the group didn’t leave the premises, deputies arrested them.
Members of the group said on Sunday, they were not doing anything wrong and believed their constitutional rights were violated with the arrests.
“We are proud to be still doing jail support. These events make it more possible to keep jail support going,” Williams said.
On Monday at noon, Charlotte Uprising plans to host a protest outside the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office demanding charges are dropped against jail support volunteers arrested Thursday.