Why Greenpeace Supports Charlotte Uprising
by Hanna Mitchell
October 4, 2016
A look back on the first week of demonstrations following the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina.
On September 20, 2016, Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department while reportedly waiting for his son at a bus stop.
In response to questions surrounding the use of lethal force, hundreds of people immediately took to the streets that night and thousands the next to protest his death. They were met by police in riot gear, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and sound grenades.
The next day, Governor McCrory declared a state of emergency. The national guard was deployed and a curfew was instated.
But the people kept showing up.
A group of local community organizers for racial justice and LGBTQ rights formed a coalition called Charlotte Uprising. Scott’s death sparked latent outrage around racial injustice in a city that has long been divided along color lines.
Charlotte is in the throes of righteous indignation.
Greenpeace stands in solidarity with the rights of people to organize in Charlotte and with the Movement for Black Lives. The protests in Charlotte are not just about an individual death, but, in the words of Rev. Dr. William Barber, “the systemic violence, which rarely makes headlines.”
What followed were five days of peaceful protest and many arrests.
People showed up by the hundreds for marches that shut down city streets and occasionally used soft blockades across the interstate at night. People rallied for justice outside the Carolina Panthers football game on Sunday — even though it was declared an “extraordinary event,” meaning that police were granted special powers and people could be arrested for possession of protest paraphernalia, such as gas masks.
At a press conference on Monday morning, Charlotte Uprising organizer Bree Newsome asked, “The national Guard has been called in to protect the windows at Bank of America. But who is being called in to protect the people of Charlotte and North Carolina?”
Greenpeace stands in solidarity with Charlotte Uprising and the Movement for Black Lives.
We are an organization founded on the principles of justice and peaceful protest. We support those taking bold, non-violent action to advocate for a greener and more peaceful world. Part of standing for peace means that everyone should feel safe in their homes, streets, and communities, and that no one should have to live in fear of violence and repression.
Furthermore, many of the forces that are destroying the Earth are also wreaking havoc on people of color. Achieving a green and peaceful future won’t happen until our democracy and justice systems work for everyone, not just the wealthy and powerful.
Why I am showing up for Charlotte Uprising.
I have been living and working in Charlotte as part of the Greenpeace field office for nearly three years. In that time, we have organized and marched with many different groups and coalitions of people committed to racial, social, and environmental justice.
From the resistance to rate hikes for dirty energy, to participation in Moral Mondays, to the fight for distributed solar, grassroots movements for environmental and racial justice in North Carolina have been building and intersecting for years. Some of the great organizers of those movements and many new leaders are taking up the charge with Charlotte Uprising. In the words of Jose Mujica, “We are not leaderless but leaderful.”
Greenpeace activists are showing up for the current protests in Charlotte because many of our allies and supporters advocating for clean air and clean water are also directly affected by racial injustice. We are showing up for justice, transparency, accountability, and a deep love for all the people of North Carolina.
After the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, Greenpeace Charlotte staff were there to support non-violent protestors in the Charlotte Uprising. Including:
- Helping to provide much-needed supplies like food and water for protesters and sharing the word about donation needs.
- Providing a 24-hour space to volunteers serving jail-support roles.
- Connecting community members to trainings for roles like legal observing and medical aid so that there was an adequate amount of people to document police-protester interactions and provide basic medical attention like washing off pepper spray.
- Sharing the word about peaceful demonstrations and community canvasses.
- Providing sound system equipment.
Charlotte is not unique in its reactions to police shootings, nor is police brutality a new phenomenon. The rise of social media has allowed individuals to expose, document, and galvanize indignation around police brutality.
The New York Times reported that in the first half of July alone, at least 88 protests over police killings of black Americans have taken place.
What does make the Scott shooting different is the lack of transparency from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police in the days following his death.
The people of Charlotte are still waiting on a full release of body-cam footage from officers involved in Scott’s killing. Furthermore, the city has a long history of urban decay and a renewal, of redlining and re-segregation. Brenda Tindal, a Charlotte historian, says that in order to understand the current situation, “If this was an onion and we started pulling back those layers, all of our eyes would burn.”
We realize that the journey to healing will be a long one and that much more organizing led by people of color will show the way. Greenpeace’s field presence in Charlotte affirms demands for justice and accountability by Charlotte Uprising, and the right of people to peaceful protest, self determination, and nonviolent direct action.