CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Chanting “No Justice! No Peace!” as they converged outside Bank of America Stadium, about 100 people peacefully demonstrated the fatal police shooting of a black man.
A heavy police presence surrounded the stadium, where officers dressed in black riot gear in preparation for a sixth day of protests following the shooting death of Keith Scott on Tuesday night. Any concerns that protests would keep fans from entering Sunday’s game between the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings were unfounded.
In the hours leading up to the game, many fans stopped to hug officers and pose for pictures. As kickoff neared, protesters gathered behind a line of officers and all dropped to one knee when the national anthem began to play inside the stadium. Along the sideline inside the game, Carolina safety Marcus Ball raised his fist during the national anthem.
Last month, San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick started a protest movement by not standing during the national anthem. He has said he wants to draw attention to racial oppression and police brutality in the United States. Many athletes have since joined him or said they support him, even before the recent police shootings in Charlotte and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
As Sunday’s protest in Charlotte went on, fans heading for the stadium strolled by, many appearing to ignore the demonstrators. From inside the stadium, people stopped on access ramps on the upper level to watch the demonstrators.
National Guard troops rode by the protest in two Humvees, followed by an unmarked N.C. Highway Patrol car.
Many protesters held signs, others chanted Scott’s name. It coincided with the music of the Brass Connection Band, a group that plays outside the stadium prior to home games. The band on Sunday played Parliament’s “We Want The Funk,” as protesters slowed their chants to match the rhythm of the song.
The band’s drummer, Bill Banks, said he and his fellow musicians were just trying to use their talents to maintain calm.
“We’re just out here to lighten the mood,” Banks said. “I don’t have nothing against them protesting as long as it’s peaceful. We’re just trying to do our part.”
Moments later, a woman carrying a “free hugs” sign made her way through the crowd, hugging both the bicycle officers watching over the crowd and some of the protesters who were locked arm-in-arm.
“It doesn’t negate justice, accountability and equity,” said Dani Cook, who said she was self-employed, in reference to her hugs.
“I can want to hug people. I can want to love people. I can also say there needs to be justice. There needs to be accountability. They’re not separate.”
Scott was killed Tuesday by a black police undercover police officer trying to serve a warrant on someone else. Police maintain that Scott had a gun, though residents have said he was unarmed.
In the dashboard camera video released Saturday night, Scott could be seen slowly backing away from his SUV with his hands down. Four shots are heard in quick succession, and he crumples to the ground mortally wounded.
After the police vehicle dashboard camera and police body-cam videos were released, protests continued but were largely peaceful.
City officials designated the NFL game on Sunday an “extraordinary event,” that gave officers the ability to search backpacks, coolers and anything else people might be carrying.
Meanwhile, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton wore a T-shirt emblazoned with a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. on the back as he warmed up for the game. The dark shirt read “Injustice Anywhere Is A Threat to Justice Everywhere.”
Newton earlier this week called Scott’s fatal shooting “embarrassing” and touched on a “state of oppression in our community.”
“My big thing is holding people accountable- no matter what the race, no matter what the gender is, no matter what the age is,” the league MVP said. “I’m an African-American and I’m not happy how the justice has been dealt with over the years, and the state of oppression in our community, but we also as black people have to do right by ourselves. We can’t be hypocrites.”