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5 Things to Know: Activists Shut Down Wilson Air Center, Protest Private Jets

...and four more stories from Nov. 6-12, 2022

Two activists stand in front of a gate, which they're attached to by chains, with fists raised in the air. A banner on the gate reads "Ban Private Jets"
Activists chained themselves to a gate at Wilson Air Center on Thursday to protest the use and impact of private jets. (Photo courtesy of Scientist Rebellion)

Activists Shut Down Wilson Air Center in Private Jet Protest

Four climate activists were arrested Thursday for shutting down the entrance to Wilson Air Center, a fixed-base operator for private jets and other small aircraft that’s located at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

The four who were arrested — climate scientist Peter Kalmus, global change economist Rose Abramoff, Deborah Kushner with Third Act Virginia and Declare Emergency, and indigenous activist Dakota — joined other participating activists in making three demands: ban private jets, tax frequent flying, and make polluters pay. The activists aimed to highlight the role of wealthy people and nations’ outsized role in producing luxury emissions, according to a release.

Protesters barricaded the doors to the main terminal as well as the gate leading directly to the tarmac. Kalmus and Kushner chained themselves to the front door of the airport while Abramoff and Dakota chained themselves to the gate leading to the jets. Other protesters stood outside with banners chanting demands. The activists spilled fake oil and scattered fake money on the sidewalk.

The protest was one of 17 private airport protests that took place on Thursday targeting the ultra-wealthy for their outsized role in driving the climate crisis. Activists were arrested at private airports in 12 other countries: Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

“The rich are burning down the planet. The damage is irreversible. We must stop them, and obviously it’s past time to ban private jets. It would be a start,” said Kalmus.

A close-up of two hands, one of which is bleeding, chained to the door handles at Wilson Air Center.
Activists chained themselves to the front entrance of Wilson Air Center in Thursday’s protest of private jets. (Photo courtesy of Scientist Rebellion)

According to Oxfam, the world’s richest 1% produce more than double the emissions than the poorest 50%. The release pointed out that Wilson Air Center is regularly used by celebrities such as Michael Jordan and wealthy corporate executives visiting the nearby Trump International Golf Course.

Thursday’s incident did not affect operations at Wilson Air Center, according to a spokesperson there. 

Interim CMS Superintendent Announces Early Departure

CMS Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh announced during a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education meeting Wednesday night that he will leave his position at the end of the year, six months before his one-year contract is up.

Hattabaugh stated that he made his decision based on the need to care for his elderly father.

“We wish he could stay through the school year but we understand and accept his reasons for departure. Family must always come first,” read a statement from the Board of Education on Thursday. “We are so very grateful for all that he has done in his time with us. Coming out of the pandemic, CMS has regained its footing. Hugh has brought a renewed sense of urgency to the district around the work of educating children. Under his leadership, the district has strengthened and streamlined critical processes and safeguards. We are therefore well positioned to continue the positive path he has charted for us, and we thank him for his skill and expertise in leading us forward.”

It’s unclear how the Board will fill the spot while they continue their search for a new superintendent, of which there have been seven in the last 10 years.

CMS is seeking resident input in that search. More than 1,300 people have already taken the CMS Community Engagement Survey to help inform the Board’s superintendent search, and CMS families and community members are encouraged to take the survey before it closes on Nov. 18. CMS will also host a Spanish-language virtual listening session on Tuesday, Nov. 15 (link includes Spanish version of survey). 

Democracy North Carolina Releases Early Voting Stats

Voting advocacy organization Democracy North Carolina released a recap of this week’s primary election on Thursday, which included some interesting stats on early voting and same-day registration. According to the release, more than 2 million voters turned out for early voting in North Carolina compared to 1.97 million in 2018 — an overall increase of 36,375, or 1.8%, even with one less day of early voting in 2022.

Black voters turned out at the highest rates for early voting, with 21% of registered Black voters having cast their ballots during that period. Out of all Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders — the newest race category added to NC Voter Files — who participated in this election, 25% used same-day registration. Voters who marked “undesignated” or two or more races used same-day registration at the next highest rates — 8% and 5% respectively.

Democracy North Carolina’s stats showed that people of color and students benefited most from same-day registration, which the organization emphasized helps expand participation and inclusivity for all voters. Ahead of Election Day, more than 656,000 unaffiliated ballots were cast, compared to 676,885 Republican ballots and 827,874 Democratic.

Democracy North Carolina’s nonpartisan Vote Protector program, which works to ensure every eligible voter in the state can successfully cast their ballot, sent more than 225 Vote Protectors to 37 counties on Election Day, including Mecklenburg. Election protection advocates identified “hot spots” in advance of Election Day — with anticipated high levels of activity aimed at confusing or intimidating voters — so they could be prepared on the ground to respond accordingly.

On Election Day, Democracy North Carolina’s voter hotline received 900 calls, some of which involved polling locations running out of ballots, opening late, or having faulty machines, leading to the NC State Board of Elections extending hours at multiple precincts.

“We expect bad actors to spread disinformation and cast doubt for their political gain. Our elections, our democracy, and those who work to protect both should be safe from intimidation and violence,” said Adrienne Kelly, co-executive director of Democracy North Carolina, in a release. “No matter the outcome, we must all accept the results of our free, fair, and secure election. We know that when our election officials take the time to count and verify every ballot, it shows our democracy is working.”

Grant Will Fund Tech Training for LGBTQ+ Community

The city of Charlotte recently awarded a $250,000 grant to Per Scholas North Carolina, a nonprofit that offers free technology courses to advance economic opportunity and mobility in underserved groups, and there is still limited time to apply for classes. 

In Charlotte, Per Scholas will partner with the Charlotte chapter of Out in Tech to train underserved members of the LGBTQ+ community. Per Scholas’s next in-person course in IT support starts on Nov. 29, and Per Scholas will accept applications to be part of the class until Monday, Nov. 14.

Per Scholas courses typically run 12-15 weeks and students attend full-time during that period. Courses include cybersecurity, java development, IT support, end user desktop support, and more. Each course incorporates professional development, including mock behavioral and technical interviews and training on topics like professional communication, emotional intelligence, and dealing with imposter phenomenon.

LGBTQ+ people experienced higher unemployment than the general population as a result of COVID-19, according to a study from Rutgers University, suggesting that LGBTQ+ people are more heavily represented in less stable service and retail jobs. The challenges facing transgender people are even greater. A 2021 McKinsey report found that transgender adults are twice as likely as cisgender adults to be unemployed.

Per Scholas launched technology training in Charlotte in June 2020, with about 280 graduates so far. Alumni are now working in technology roles at TEKsystems, UPS, Charter Communications, Lowe’s, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and more.

Two Lives Lost to Gun Violence

Two men lost their lives to gun violence in two separate incidents early this week. Just before 3 a.m. on Sunday, police responded to Central Avenue near Norland Road, where they found 29-year-old Wilson Mejia dead from a gunshot wound. No arrests have yet been made in the case. 

Shortly after 8:30 a.m. on Monday morning, police responded to another shooting call on Drury Drive near Derita Creek Park in north Charlotte, where they found 34-year-old Daymon Holley-Long suffering from a gunshot wound. Police and Medic rendered aid, but Holley-Long was pronounced dead at the scene soon thereafter. No arrests have yet been made in the case. 

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