CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nearly 50 people participated in a die-in at SouthPark Mall over the weekend, continuing their protests against police brutality and criminal justice system failures.

Charlotte Activist Collective, with several organizers who identify as LGBT, have been leading similar protests across the city, including one blocking Independence Square at Trade & Tryon Sts. on Dec. 9.

The group’s protest on Saturday, Dec. 20 began sharply at 5 p.m., with an organizer shouting, “No justice, no peace,” as others fell to the ground in the courtyard near Macy’s and Nordstrom. An organizer spoke for four-and-a-half minutes, representative of the four-and-a-half hours shooting victim Michael Brown laid on the street in Ferguson, Mo.

After the die-in, the crowd marched through the mall and exited through Nordstrom, before continuing up toward Fairview Rd. The group briefly blocked one full lane of traffic before moving out of the street.

The group said they specifically chose SouthPark for its action. Organizers point to SouthPark’s uneven “ratio of brown shoppers to brown workers” and said it made sense to speak out in such a divided space. SouthPark, they said, is also home to individuals who might have the power to help effect change.

“Think about all the people that go to SouthPark,” said an organizer, who refused to give their name. “It’s where a lot of money goes to spend time, people who maybe are not focused on issues we’re representing. We wanted to bring it to them.”

Reactions from shoppers varied, but most were negative. This reporter heard a young, 20-something-year-old white man say, “Hopefully, they won’t get up this time,” as he stepped over several die-in participants.

“SouthPark is one of the biggest symbols of segregation in Charlotte,” said another organizer. “I’ve been racially profiled in SouthPark so many times. I get followed every time I go there.”

No arrests were made during the event, though several officers from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department were present. It seemed to this writer that officers were going to allow protesters to shut down a portion of Fairview Rd., at least for a short time. An organizer, however, said officers had told the group they had four minutes to make their action, after which arrests could be possible.

Cooperation between CMPD and protesters has been strong during recent events, which took on national fervor after grand juries failed to indict police officers accused of killing two unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.