CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A week after Charlotte’s first George Floyd protest ended in violence and vandalism, setting the tone for the days ahead, one of the organizers of that Beatties Ford protest said members of his group are all from Charlotte.
Despite his assurances, since the group failed to file the required picket notice, the organizers' identities remain unclear.
"I'm a college student," the 20-year-old who said he attends UNC Charlotte said. "I recently started organizing because of the George Floyd incident."
The man would not reveal his name or his face, afraid of retaliation, but said he and the others behind Justice for Police Brutality - Charlotte are not outside agitators.
"All of us are from Charlotte," he said. "We're not trying to go in and disrupt neighborhoods. We feel like that's what the police are doing. I'm not with Antifa. We're not affiliated with any organization."
We connected with him after reaching out using the contact information on the group's recently created Facebook page.
"We're not trying to instigate violence," he said. "We are here to raise awareness against police brutality."
His words present a different narrative than the one elected officials, community leaders and fellow organizers described Friday night and through the weekend.
"I can tell you that there were outside agitators," Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden said. "The agitators started throwing things and started doing things and guess what happened? They left."
"Many of the individuals are not from Charlotte. They're from out of town," Charlotte City Council Member Malcolm Graham said. "They're agitating and instigating public violence."
As we reported earlier this week, using jail records, our Defenders team discovered the majority of people arrested over the weekend were from Charlotte with some exceptions Saturday and Sunday.
Before you can legally protest in Charlotte, you have to fill out a picket notice and give CMPD your name, address and other identifying information 48 hours before the event if you believe the group will consist of 50 or more people.
Public records show 17-year-old Claire Tandoh filed a picket notice for her Kidz Fed Up protest uptown on Tuesday.
"I just wanted order, just to make sure that everything was organized," she said. "It was just an idea in my head and just to see it play out was really cool."
Picket notices filed with CMPD for many of the protests since Friday clearly identify organizers as the NAACP, It Ends Now Charlotte and Kidz Fed Up. However, public records also show Justice for Police Brutality - Charlotte and organizers of protests Saturday and Monday uptown did not file picket notices.
"A protest is not a parade, we don't march when the cops tell us to," the group said over email. "We are defying a brutal system. Getting permission for defiance is laughable at best, dangerous at worst."
One of the organizers said while he doesn't live near Beatties Ford Road, the group picked the neighborhood for one reason and one reason only.
"We just feel like we need to be where people need the most help," he said. "I care really deeply about the community."
If prosecuted, someone who holds a picket without turning in a notice can face anything from a fine to jail time, according to North Carolina Judicial Branch - District 26 Public Information Officer Jessica C. Davis.