CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Amidst the demonstrations and marches Thursday night, Channel 9 witnessed several people helping protesters and police officers better understand each other.
Assistant public defender Toussaint Romain was uptown overnight as well as the riots earlier this week.
He told Channel 9 that it was a small group of agitators during the first two nights of protesting, and hopes the demonstrations remain peaceful going forward.
(Toussaint Romain marches through uptown)
“There was a call for leadership and look at all the pastors and leaders and adults who are out here laughing and expressing,” Romain said. “So there’s hope.”
Some witnesses said they saw Romain defuse situations during the riots Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
Channel 9 also found a man seen hugging CMPD officers dressed in tactical gear Wednesday night.
Activist Ken Nwadike was wearing a “Free Hugs” shirt and is with a group that travels to cities during unrest.
He tried to explain to others who were protesting why violence is not the answer.
“It’s about staying neutral, that’s what’s important,” Nwadike told them. “I see them (officers) as human beings, just like I see everybody on this side as human beings. We’re all human. His uniform doesn’t make him a robot. Just like your uniform, your skin color, doesn’t make you a criminal.”
Nwadike, who started the Free Hugs Project after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, told Anderson Cooper on CNN 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,” he said to Cooper. “I don’t see it as us versus 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.”
Both officers and protesters alike thanked him for calling for peace.
Channel 9 reporter Paul Boyd was on Interstate 277 as protesters faced off with police later Thursday night, and reported on one man who was standing in unity with those officers in riot gear, trying to calm the crowd.
“I’m out here for one love, one people,” said Milton Ware. “One love, one love, one love.”
Boyd was broadcasting on Facebook Live, showing the harsh criticism Ware was facing from other protesters.
Ware told them that standing in the middle of the interstate was not the way to incite change.
Channel 9 later spoke with Ware after those protesters were forced off the road.
“I just want to put my message out: One love,” he said. ”We got to come together as a community, as a city, and show each other love, not hate. I have no hate in my heart for anybody at all. I love everybody and that’s what it boils down to.”
Ware told Channel 9 that he strongly supports law enforcement and came out to show his support to officers and the National Guard.