A group of attorneys will hold a press conference on Wednesday to address an incident that occurred on Thursday, June 11, in which they say police threatened to arrest them for attempting to see their clients, local organizers with Charlotte Uprising and other activists arrested during recent protests.
Darlene Harris, one of the “Pro Bono Protest Attorneys” (PBPA) told Queen City Nerve that they were threatened by CMPD officers at the department headquarters in Uptown while trying to see clients who had recently been arrested. Harris said she and others will speak more in-depth about that incident on Wednesday.
According to a press release put out on Monday, the attorneys will also address how “police are effectuating arrests and targeted use of force” during the ongoing protests.
“The manner in which CMPD has addressed attorneys and the community requires attention and redress,” reads the release. The group of attorneys will hold the press conference in front of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Charlotte Uprising Says CMPD Has Targeted Lead Organizers
This follows a press conference held last week in which organizers with Charlotte Uprising, some of whom are PBPA clients, alleged that CMPD has been targeting them for arrest throughout the protests.
On Friday, June 12, members of the Charlotte Uprising organization and other local activists held a press conference in front of the Mecklenburg County Detention Center to support fellow protester Anthony Ferguson as he prepared to turn himself in for an outstanding arrest warrant on a charge of resisting a public officer.
At the end of the “Hands Off Anthony” press conference, Charlotte Uprising members watched as one of their own joined Ferguson, with organizer Jamie Marsicano only learning of her own outstanding warrants for impeding traffic and disorderly conduct as the group prepared for Anthony’s press conference. The two turned themselves in together on Friday.
Marsicano was also arrested earlier in the week and charged with two counts each of assault on a government official, resisting a public officer and disorderly conduct following an incident on June 8 in which CMPD Captain Brad Koch tackled a protester who allegedly pushed him, though protesters say Koch initiated the contact.
Koch can be seen in video, captured by WFAE’s Nick de la Canal, tackling the individual who pushed him before demonstrators jumped into the fray to attempt to free the person in the captain’s grasp. Protester Demarco Blair aided Koch in separating from the group and stood between the captain and protesters. Blair later told media that he is a protester but did not agree with Charlotte Uprising’s tactics.
Koch had been marching alongside protesters with the Million Youth March of Charlotte (MYMC) and others for weeks, to the chagrin of Charlotte Uprising organizers who have repeatedly stated that their organization is unabashedly anti-police. Some organizers not affiliated with Charlotte Uprising planned a protest outside of Koch’s home in Concord on June 14 that drew only a few people and didn’t amount to much.
Video Shows Moments Leading Up To Alleged Assault
The video of the June 8 incident, which occurred during a Charlotte Uprising event leading up to a city council meeting at which council voted on whether to prohibit the funding of tear gas for police, shows demonstrators yelling at Koch to leave before the physical confrontation began. The CMPD captain mocks them, repeatedly cupping a hand to his ear and riling up the crowd by waving his other hand as if to ask them to shout it louder.
As can be seen in the video, Marsicano did not push Koch, but was in the resulting fray, pulling on the leg of the person who Koch tackled, trying to separate the two. Molly Storm was also later arrested and charged with resisting a public officer for their involvement in the same incident.
Charlotte Uprising activists have repeatedly accused the CMPD of targeting its lead organizers, saying it was a tactic that was also used back in 2016 during protests following the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott.
“We know the police are trumping up all kinds of charges to kind of tire us out, make us waste resources, but we’re good,” said lawyer Tin Nguyen, an organizer with Southeast Asian Coalition, which works closely with Charlotte Uprising.
CMPD did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
Ferguson Turns Self In, Returns to Protests
At Friday’s press conference, Ferguson stated that he had been “running every day in fear of my life,” and that police had gone to his mother’s house to harass her and scare her over the two weeks since they put out the warrant.
“With only my voice, I have become a target, and therefore [have been] harassed, chased, sprayed, gassed, beaten, [and] arrested for peacefully protesting for the right to be Black in America, and for demanding justice and change in my community,” Ferguson continued.
He sounded a hopeful note before turning himself in, stating: “An attempt to make an example of me will be met with a million eyeballs watching their every move. They didn’t know that the community was watching CMPD, and we’re no longer going to tolerate harassment, unprofessionalism, and mistreatment anymore.”
Ferguson promised to continue marching in Charlotte upon his release, which came later that afternoon, and Queen City Nerve has seen him back out at protests since. On Friday, shortly after the press conference, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office hung a “Here Black Lives Matter” banner outside of the jail on East Fourth Street where Charlotte Uprising has organized a jail support group since the protests started.
The Protests Continue
Protesters have been marching through the streets of Charlotte since May 29, holding rallies, teach-ins and other actions in response to the death of George Floyd, who died at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Organizers with the MYMC plan to continue those protests tonight, and will start at First Ward Park at 8 p.m. In the meantime, Charlotte Uprising is calling on District Attorney Spencer Merriweather’s office to drop all charges against protesters arrested during the protests.
Harris asked that any protesters who have been arrested or have footage of questionable CMPD behavior during the protests contact her through her firm’s Charlotte Project website.
Ryan Pitkin contributed reporting to this story.