Organizers with Charlotte Uprising, Southeast Asian Coalition (SEAC), and Feed the Movement CLT gathered in front of District Attorney Spencer Merriweather’s office on Monday to call on him to drop all charges related to protests that have been held in Charlotte over the last 25 days.
On Thursday, deputies with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) arrested more than 40 people at a jail support site outside of the Mecklenburg County Detention Center after they refused a request by Sheriff Garry McFadden to move from the sidewalk where they had been stationed since protests began on May 29.
The group has since set up across the street, where they continue meeting the needs of those exiting the jail, as well as to protesters and others in the community, supplying food, water, clothing and transportation.
Including those arrested on Thursday, there have been nearly 200 total protest-related arrests since the demonstrations began in response to the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.
Organizers on Monday said they were there for everyone who had been arrested since the beginning of protests, including those who were manhandled and thrown to the ground by deputies on Thursday.
“Jail support is essential,” said Charlotte Uprising organizer Ash Williams. “What happened on Thursday should never happen, in Charlotte or anywhere else … We’re here to say that jail support is here to stay. Even though our folks endured that violence on Thursday that no one should ever have to experience, we came back from that moment.”
Nada Merghani, founder of Feed the Movement CLT, which has been providing meals to organizers throughout the protests, called the arrests on Thursday “like a scene out of a fucking nightmare.”
She recounted that once arrested and placed inside a patrol wagon, she and others became overheated and had to place their faces up against the metal side of the vehicle “so that we wouldn’t pass out.” She said once inside the jail, they were denied masks and some were denied tampons.
A representative with MCSO told Queen City Nerve that masks were taken from arrestees so as not to contaminate the inside of the detention center. Arrestees were not provided new masks or fully screened for COVID-19 because they were only processed for arrest and not booked into the jail itself.
Eboni Exceus said those arrested on Thursday were not allowed to properly social distance during processing and that a machine used for fingerprinting was cleaned with baby wipes instead of disinfectant.
AJ Ferreira described their experience during the arrests, being thrown to the ground and having their arm pulled behind their back so aggressively it caused injuries that were then not treated once they were in custody, despite asking to seek a medical professional.
Cat Bao Le, executive director of SEAC and among those arrested on Thursday, noted that organizers were asking for more than minor reform.
“Let’s shine a light on why we are fighting here,” she said. “We’re fighting to abolish all prisons, all detention centers, [and] the police, which will start with defunding here in Mecklenburg County.”
Merriweather stated last week that there were no plans for issuing blanket acquittals dropping all protest charges, saying each case would be considered individually, and adding that there is already a backlog of cases due to the coronavirus pandemic.