Assistant opinion editor Emily Yue
Charlotte is only a two-hour drive from our campus. Of the approximately 80 percent of UNC students who hail from North Carolina, many come from Charlotte. When injustice strikes so close to home, it’s shocking.
It’s surreal watching Facebook Live videos of police brutality on familiar city sidewalks. It’s surreal seeing a video on CNN and hearing your hometown friend’s heartbreaking cry for justice before she enters the frame, hands clutching at a banner that not only proclaims “Black Lives Matter” but also serves as a barrier between her body and a row of police clad in riot gear and gas masks.
I wish I could say I left Chapel Hill as soon as I could, but I hesitated. A lot of things held me back, but my outrage toward the system outweighed my self-doubt — I drove down to volunteer.
The training for jail solidarity was more thorough than I expected. About 30 people attended an in-depth orientation to the jail system, the current state of Charlotte Uprising and how to best use our time and talents to help out. We introduced ourselves, our pronouns, our hometowns. We explained why we were there.
The organizers needed people to work the hotline, manage contacts with lawyers and police, drive people home and most crucially, to stand outside the city jail in shifts so that they’d have people available there 24/7. The same five people worked these jobs non-stop from Wednesday to Saturday; they were exhausted.
Following the orientation, the facilitator asked those who were planning on immediately taking jail solidarity shifts to stay. Only three of us did.
Most of the volunteers who left went straight to Marshall Park, joining nearly a thousand other protesters in a beautiful, vibrant, mournful collective action — leaving three people to split the shifts in manning the jail for the rest of that day.
We were lucky that Saturday was a relatively peaceful day with few arrests, but as mass arrests accumulated and protests grew more fervent, fewer and fewer people were available to take shifts.
A disparity exists between those who prioritize frontline protest over “behind the scenes” support. My experience is just one example.
You do not have to risk your bodily safety to meaningfully contribute to a historic social movement. If you are scared of losing your job when your boss finds footage of you at the protests, if you are scared of being arrested because you are undocumented or low-income, if you are scared of losing your life in another act of brutality — it’s okay.
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