Three arrested after “Hands Up” protest in Winston-Salem

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Lauren Carroll/Journal

A “Hands Up” protest against incidents in which unarmed black men have been killed by police grabbed the attention of Christmas shoppers on Hanes Mall Boulevard Sunday, as dozens of protesters chanted, waved signs and briefly blocked traffic before marching to the mall and going inside quietly with their hands held up, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

After the protest ended, three participants were charged by police with impeding traffic.

Among those cited was Kim Porter, one of the leaders of the protest, who complained that all she did was walk against a red light after telling Winston-Salem City Manager Lee Garrity that that was what protesters were going to do.

Garrity showed up to watch the protest and said he was there in hopes that everything would go peacefully.

Police kept a low-profile during the street-side part of the protest that began shortly after 2 p.m. and went on for about an hour and a half. The protesters mostly lined up on the north side of Hanes Mall Boulevard at the Stratford Road intersection, one of the busiest in town and clogged at the time with holiday shoppers.

The number of protesters rose and fell, but at times at least 60 people could be counted who appeared to be taking part. A majority of the corner protesters took part in the march to the mall and the walk inside. Some people made their own signs, and others held signs provided by the organizers.

“I’m here because we need a change in a system that allows some lives to be held worth less than others,” said the Rev. Martin Lawson, who held up a sign and at one point walked among stopped cars waiting for the light to change in the line of Hanes Mall Boulevard traffic. The protesters mostly stayed on the sidewalk.

Nationwide, people have staged protests to call attention to the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., and the death of Eric Garner, who was held in a chokehold by police in New York.

Here, protestors on Sunday chanted slogans such as “black lives matter,” “hands up – don’t shoot” and “I can’t breathe,” cheering when a passing motorist would blow a car horn in support.

Some drivers yelled at the protesters in disagreement.

Sebastian Zuhr and Kendelle Enoch, riding together past the protest, stopped their car long enough to get cell-phone pictures of the event. They said that lives matter whether they are black or white and expressed approval of the protest.

But Kevin Gentle, stopped in traffic, said that the protest was “a waste of time.”

“I think there are other ways to do this without putting yourself in danger,” he said, referring to the chances people took among all the cars. Another man, who wouldn’t give his name, said that the protesters had it all wrong by maintaining that Michael Brown had his hands up when he was shot.

Some protesters ended up in the median on the west side of the intersection, and that part of the protest finished with protesters briefly blocking some lanes of Hanes Mall Road at Stratford.

The protest was put together over social media and organized by three groups: Black Lives Matter Winston-Salem, Occupy Winston-Salem and El Cambio, a Hispanic group.

“It is a peaceful protest,” Porter said. “We are here to draw attention to the fact that so many people are killed in a manner that is not fair.”

Tony Ndege, designated one of the main protest leaders, spoke to the media and called the protests part of the “dawn of a new civil-rights movement.”

Gjerria Ligons brought his whole family with him to take part in the event – his wife Selena, 13-year old son Gjerria Jr., 11-year-old son Gahques and baby daughter Selia, in a stroller.

The dad said he especially wanted his sons to see what was happening:

“They are asking questions,” he said. “They wonder why the police are doing this because they believe the police are supposed to be protecting the community.”

Sherry Rose, whose family includes some retired officers, drove past the scene of the protest several times and held an enlarged version of a Winston-Salem police badge out her window. To her, she said, the timing of the protest seemed all wrong because of Saturday’s slaying of two New York police officers by a man who said he was exacting revenge for the Brown and Garner deaths.

“Two cops are dead today,” Rose said. “It is senseless to have this protest because the whole nation is hurting.”

Although police were mostly out of sight during the protest at the intersection, police cruisers began massing after the protesters arrived at Hanes Mall and began chanting slogans at the entrance while officers stood guard at the door and shoppers tried to squeeze in or out.

The protesters briefly debated among themselves whether to take their protest inside and risk arrest, or stay outside. After talking with the mall manager, who had shown up, the group agreed to walk through in a silent protest while holding up their hands.

Holiday shoppers looked taken aback by the buzz, and one of the most common reactions was to whip out a smartphone and grab a video.

Charles Gwinn, the manager of the mall, confirmed that he had given the protestors permission to go inside if they would leave their signs behind and remain silent.

The protest appeared to be all over about 4:30 p.m. at the mall. But police officers were back at the corner of Hanes Mall Boulevard and Stratford Road about an hour later.

Later, police put out a news release with the names of those charged:

• Zachary Widener, 21, of 1761 Acoma Court, arrested and charged with impeding traffic and wearing a mask (a chargeable offense for those over 16). His bond was set at $1,000.

• Christopher Maurer, 20, of 301 Foxcroft Drive, was issued a citation for impeding traffic and wearing a mask.

• Porter, who is 47 and lives at 636 Friar Tuck Road, cited for impeding traffic.