Amid all the violence and yelling, one man entered the Charlotte protests to offer police officers something they probably weren’t expecting: a hug.
For the second straight night, the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina erupted as protesters clashed with police over the death of Keith Lamont Scott.
But when Ken E. Nwadike Jr. began hugging two police officers during the protests Wednesday night, he infuriated demonstrators who began verbally assaulting him for the gesture, demanding to know why he was on ‘their side’.
Free Hugs Charlotte, North Carolina Riots
Posted by Free Hugs Project on Thursday, September 22, 2016
Nwadike can be heard telling them:
It’s about staying neutral — that’s what’s important. We cannot say that every cop is bad. None of these people here shot anyone. None of them did.
I see them as human beings, just like I see everyone on this side as human beings. We’re all human. His uniform doesn’t make him a robot. Just like your uniform, your skin colour, doesn’t make you a criminal. And that’s what I need people to understand.
Pointing to a police officer and then a protester, he added: “This man gave me a hug, and this man wants to fight me because of it. How does that make sense? Spreading more hate into the world, that’s what’s frustrating me. We can’t love one another?”
Chicago is a beautiful city that is riddled with crime. I hope to meet with more groups and organizations to discuss ways that we can help reduce the violence.
The powerful message was captured on video and posted to Nwadike’s Facebook page, Free Hugs Project. The project is described as ‘an initiative that spreads love, inspires change and raises awareness of social issues through motivational videos.’
Nwadike, who started the project after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, told Anderson Cooper Thursday night why he went to Charlotte.
People are hurting, and I understand that. I think it was very tough for them to see a black man hugging police officers, which to me, doesn’t really make sense,” Nwadike said on CNN. “I don’t see it as us vs. the police. We’re all human beings. I was pointing out to them that those specific officers didn’t do anything to them, and it’s very important for us to spread love towards one another.
What an amazing guy with a powerful message.