MINT HILL – Arden Boyle was so moved by how people came together during a peaceful demonstration in Waxhaw that she wanted to organize a similar protest in her hometown.
Boyle, who lives in Queens, New York, was furloughed from her job and has been quarantined with her parents during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was born and raised in Mint Hill, having graduated from Independence High School.
“I want to give back to the community that gave so much to me,” Boyle said. “I think each representation of Charlotte, especially a predominantly conservative town, should hear a different side of the story than they’ve heard their whole lives.”
She told the dozens of people gathered June 10 outside of Mint Hill Town Hall that the protest was designed to help people understand that black lives have always mattered, especially now.
Boyle recruited four speakers for the event, including Jack Tocho, an Independence alum who played cornerback this past season for the XFL’s Los Angeles Wildcats.
“We’re not fighting against the police,” Tocho said. “It’s black people against racism. It’s minorities against racism. That is the battle.”
Boyle framed the protest as a means to support and understand black people, adding that once in a while, a white person needs to listen. That philosophy didn’t bode well for Mint Hill Mayor Brad Simmons.
Simmons has spoken out against racism and supported the protest in written communication to residents; however, one demonstrator noticed the mayor walking inside town hall as the crowd chanted “No justice, no peace.”
That prompted Tim Marshall Sr. to call out the mayor, police chief and other town officials for not speaking during the protest. Simmons replied that he had to go to the men’s room and that he was at the protest to listen.
“I’m going to listen to you who has experienced it more than I have,” Simmons told Marshall. “I can’t fix something that I have not experienced.”
Still, Marshall wanted to hear solutions. He pressed the mayor on the issue. When the mayor acknowledged he didn’t have an immediate fix, Marshall offered a couple of his own. He suggested the town hire black police officers and make more of a lasting impact on youth during traffic stops.
Marshall explained to Simmons and the crowd that he has to instruct his teenage sons how to act if they get pulled over by police to ensure they make it home.
The four-minute exchange between Marshall and Simmons was caught on video by Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly. It has been viewed more than 7,000 times on Facebook and generated a few dozen comments, including some from Marshall’s wife. Tamara Marshall wrote that her husband met with the mayor the next day for a productive conversation. She hinted at positive action to come from that conversation in the weeks ahead.
Peaceful demonstrations have been occurring in communities across the Charlotte region, including Indian Trail, Matthews, Monroe and the Charlotte neighborhoods of Dilworth, SouthPark and Ballantyne.
Ed Driggs, who represents the Ballantyne area on the Charlotte City Council, attended a recent protest at Johnston Road and Ballantyne Commons Parkway. Driggs said such well-organized and peaceful protests are powerful in that they’re not marred by incidents that cloud the issue and require police action.
“I was pleased Ballantyne has participated in this citywide and nationwide – international even – expression or concern about social conditions,” Driggs told supporters June 12 during his weekly coffee meeting. “I don’t like the idea that it looks as if south Charlotte is unaware or uninterested in what the rest of the community is talking about.”
Driggs believes the path forward is through cooperation and not by shaming people. He said there’s a sense of confusion about what’s next.
“I hope demonstrations like this protest will serve the purpose of raising awareness and creating a greater a sense of urgency, but I also want to know what the plan is. I keep waiting and I’ve talked to my colleague, Braxton (Winston), about this. I keep waiting for somebody to come to me and say this is what we need to do. This is how it will work and this would be a plan in my mind that involves commitments by all the parties, not just a burden placed on well-intentioned people who aren’t quite sure how to address the situation.”
Janice Robinson, the organizer of the Ballantyne protest that Driggs attended, happened to be at the coffee meeting. She has started a “next steps” document designed to end systematic racism. Some of the action items include:
• Charlotte City Council takes the pledge to address police use of force, initiates #8cantwait and requests the city become a “My Brother’s Keeper Community.” The council did approve the #8cantwait framework during a June meeting.
• Support bail organizations and shop at black-owned businesses.
• Register to vote.
• Watch “13th,” and “When They See Us” and read “White Fragility” by Robin Diangelo, “So You Want to Talk About Race,” by Ijeoma Oluo and “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander.
• Talk to neighbors, family and friends about resources, racism in the community, the importance of voting and getting involved.