Charlotte has been the site of protests, riots, and looting ever since Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by a police officer. In an attempt to quell the violence, the city announced it would impose a city-wide curfew from midnight to 6 a.m., declared a State of Emergency, and brought in the National Guard. Despite the chaos, anger, and resentment in the air in Charlotte, Ken Nwadike tries to soothe animosities with an unconventional weapon.
Ken refuses to stir up more hate, and instead combats the friction between disenfranchised blacks and police officers with love. During the riots on where there were tense clashes between citizens and cops, Ken was an island. He didn’t blame the cops and he understood why the protestors were enraged. Ken bravely broke the lines and approached police officers that were dressed from head to toe in intimidating riot gear. He did not want to chastise, spit, or attack the cops, he wanted to give a friendly embrace to show that love can defeat hate. A white cop gladly welcomed a hug and the two had a heart-to-heart. Ken then hugged other police officers of different backgrounds.
Nwadike is the founder of the Free Hugs Project, an initiative that spreads love, inspires change and raises awareness of social issues through motivational videos.
However, not everyone saw the uplifting act as a positive. Several protestors quickly condemned Ken. Some were incredibly incensed and immediately berated Ken.
Ken brilliantly notes that none of us should jump to judgment and blame an entire group for the actions of one.
“Did he kill somebody?” Ken asks, pointing at one cop. He then points at a different police officer and asks, “Did he kill somebody?”
“None of these people here shot anybody. I can’t even reason with you because you’re not even making sense to me,” the man says.
“It’s about staying neutral,” Nwadike says. “That’s what’s important.”
Ken spotlights the humanity in these very difficult, complex, and emotional situations:
“I see them as human beings. Just like I see everybody on this side as human beings. We’re all humans. His uniform doesn’t make him a robot. Just like your skin color doesn’t make you a criminal. This man gave me a hug, and he (pointing at another protester) wants to fight me because of that. How does that make sense? Spreading more hate into the world. That’s what frustrating me. We can’t love one another? It doesn’t make sense.”
Ken commented on the tense encounter in Charlotte:
Last night was very risky and difficult being on the frontline fighting for peace. I lost my patience with a few people, but I know I got through to many and kept some from getting arrested. Unfortunately, a young man was shot in the head during the protests. Condolences to his family. Hate and violence won’t fix the damage that has been done, only love can do that. -Ken E Nwadike Jr (Free Hugs Guy)
Scott’s family insists that Keith only had a book in his hand. Police Chief Kerr Putney has said that there is a video of the incident that shows a gun on the scene. Scott’s family has since seen the video and have not commented.
Justin Bamberg, an attorney for Scott’s family, did release a statement.
“While police did give him several commands, he did not aggressively approach them or raise his hands at members of law enforcement at any time. It is impossible to discern from the videos what, if anything, Mr. Scott is holding in his hands,” Bamberg said.
Putney told reporters the video “does not give me absolute definitive visual evidence that would confirm that a person is pointing a gun” but that the evidence “taken in totality” supports the police version of events that led to the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.
Charlotte police officer Brentley Vinson shot Keith Lamont Scott, but his body cam videos don’t clearly show whether he pointed the gun or not.
The riots have seen at least 20 injuries to police officers and the death of protester Justin Carr as well as many businesses destroyed and looted.
Thank you Ken Nwadike for bravely trying to mend the hearts of an entire city.