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Parking tickets in Uptown keep veterans from marching for suicide prevention awareness

Hundreds of military veterans, family, friends and loved ones were turned away from a city-permitted annual veterans suicide prevention march in Uptown Charlotte.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Backlash is mounting after crowds of people were turned away from a veteran's suicide prevention awareness walk scheduled in Uptown Charlotte.

"We got a lot of irate phone calls, emails, text messages via our web app," U.S. Veterans Hall of Fame founder Curtis Drafton said. "A lot of people, they won't take this lightly, and they're not going to let it go."

The U.S. Veterans Hall of Fame Walk to Fight Suicide was scheduled the morning of Aug. 6 at Romare Bearden Park, which was the same day as a Charlotte FC game restricting access to the on-street parking adjacent to the park.

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Drafton says despite applying for proper permitting from the city of Charlotte several months in advance, dozens who showed up at the event were cited.

"Every vehicle that was parked around the park where we had specific permission to use everybody got tickets," Drafton told WCNC Charlotte.

In the past, the event has attracted more than 2,000 participants. The latest walk, its fourth year, was the first since 2019. Drafton estimates hundreds were turned away because 630 pre-registered, but only 118 showed up.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, with nearly 46,000 deaths in 2020. Drafton believes there are veterans in need of help in Mecklenburg and  Cabarrus counties.

"When you look at an event like this ...people are coming because they may have fresh in their memory, the loss that they've incurred," Drafton explained. "That could be a military family member, a family member, a co worker, a neighbor."

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Charlotte Department of Transportation told WCNC Charlotte they are addressing the citations, and working to ensure appropriate parking for future permitted events in Uptown.

"At the end of the day, we get tons of emails of people who are highly upset," Drafton said.

Contact Fred Shropshire at fred@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.  

If you or a loved one are facing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, there is help readily available. You can call Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or chat with them online. There are also resources in North Carolina available here and in South Carolina available here.  

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