Police officers in riot gear were in place Sunday morning outside Bank of America Stadium as city officials declared the 1 p.m. Carolina Panthers-Minnesota Vikings game an “extraordinary event.”
An “extraordinary event” designation gives police more leeway to search backpacks, coolers and other things people might be carrying at a game, festival or protest. The Extraordinary Events ordinance was enacted before the city hosted the Democratic National Convention in 2012.
As of noon about two dozen protesters were chanting “Black Lives Matter” at Mint and Graham streets near the stadium. Some carried signs bearing the name of Keith Lamont Scott, the man fatally shot by police in Charlotte on Tuesday in a case that has sparked five nights of protest across the city.
Panthers President Danny Morrison said last week the team had been in contact with government officials about the game, as well as Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and NFL headquarters.
Earlier Sunday, as fans streamed into the stadium, many gave handshakes and hugs to police who wore riot gear.
Vikings and Panthers fans were also invited to share a hug and smile from three young black men holding posters with a message of “God is Love” and advertising free hugs.
Kyree Thames, 23, of Durham, said, “we've had a pretty good response. I just want to have people recognize that there is a problem.”
Thames is a Charlotte native and said, as a young black man, he is afraid of an incident of police brutality daily. Yet, he believes a message of hope and love, mixed with a call for change in police practices, is the right way to solve issues.
His friend Jagerrad Knight also held a free hug poster. Knight said “we're tired of seeing black men killed in the street.”
Knight said he wants people who are angry, confused and scared to think about how they can be a force of change and good. "If you have a negative thought, replace it with a positive action."
Staff Writers Anna Douglas and Katherine Peralta contributed.