Kevin Nwadike has a new way to protest in Charlotte - hugs
Posted October 6, 2016
Kevin Nwadike wants to stop all the Charlotte, North Carolina, protests by a simple method: hugging it out.
The San Diego native traveled to Charlotte this week to give free hugs to police officers who were monitoring the recent round of protests, and spoke to FOX-5 about his experiences.
These hugs came on the second night of Charlotte protests, a night that saw a wealth of damage and chaos. As I wrote earlier this week, the Tuesday night protests led to one protester getting shot by a fellow protester, as well as looting and robbery in multiple areas. Police even released tear gas on protesters to calm the situation.
The protests came after police shot and killed Keith Scott, a 43-year-old black man. Debate still remains about whether Scott held a gun or a book during the shooting.
Nwadike, noticing how violent these protests had become, spent his night in Charlotte hugging police, showing people there is another way to handle the issue, according to Business Insider.
"I think that there were probably issues on both sides," Nwadike told CNN Thursday. "I think that there was a little bit of aggression from the police officers, but also the people in Charlotte yesterday.”
He also said he doesn’t think protests filled with anger will help either side.
Of course, not everyone felt appreciative of the hugs, with some condemning Nwadike for hugging the riot police who protesters are demonstrating against. Protesters shouted at Nwadike for giving the officers, who are the object of the Charlotte citizen’s demonstration, hugs.
He was also worried that something would happen to him while giving out free hugs.
"I wasn't sure what to expect from the riot police because I did see a number of peaceful protesters that were pepper sprayed or maced," he told CNN. "I wasn't sure if I would get grabbed by the police officers. But also on the protest side — because there was so much anger and frustration — I didn't know what to expect."
He told Fox-5 that one of the cops shook his hand afterward, letting Nwadike know that he appreciated his efforts. He also said National Guard members and other police officers told him to keep up the good work.
"It's moments like that that really make it worth it, when both the police and the community understand I'm there for peace," he said.
Nwadike also said he hopes his free hugs demonstration will be a sign to others that it’s important to remain united. Creating contention between police and community members won’t help anyone, he said.
"There are good cops and there are bad cops," Nwadike said. "Every time that we have one of these cases that pops up, we can't go and get upset at the other 90-something percent of police officers that are just trying to do their job."
Nwadike is no stranger to bringing people together. Back in 2013, following the Boston Marathon bombings, Nwadike started his Free Hugs Project, according to FOX-5.
“I wanted to figure out a creative way to pay my respects, so I said if there was a bomb there I'm just going to be the ‘love bomb.'" he said. "The following year I went out to the race and I just decided to hug people.”
Since that time, he’s also shared hugs at various presidential rallies, including ones for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
A former homeless man, Nwadike said that showing love in this way can unite the people together and spread peace.
"I don't think they understand the message of unity. They looked at the police officers as the enemy," he told CNN. "What I was trying to help them understand was that these individual police officers that are standing here are not the reason why the protest is even taking place."
Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret Digital Media.