Black Panther Party advertising 'armed march' in Wilmington this weekend

Published: Jan. 25, 2017 at 7:32 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2017 at 6:30 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The Revolutionary Black Panther Party is planning to march in Wilmington this weekend. WECT learned of the march after receiving calls, emails, and tweets from the public Wednesday, concerned that the march could turn violent.

The event is being advertised as an "armed march against terrorism & genocide" seeking justice for Brandon Smith, Walter Scott, and Keith Lamont Scott, three African-American men who were shot and killed by police.

Wilmington Police confirmed the Revolutionary Black Panther Party of Wilmington, NC has notified them of their intent to demonstrate this weekend. The Black Panthers requested and received the necessary paperwork for the march last week. Police say so far, they have not turned that paperwork back into the WPD.

The WPD does not have the ability to approve or decline picketing requests. They simply file the required paperwork prior to an event.

Because the event is advertised as an "armed march," the WPD communicated with the Black Panthers that it is against the law in North Carolina to be armed at a public picketing event. They say the group seemed to understand and agree to that restriction, however, the posting on Facebook advertising the event still says it is an armed march.

Several residents in the Creekwood Community are ok with the march taking place but hope it doesn't turn violent.

"It will be alright to have the march but not the firearms with it," explained Diane Conyers, a Creekwood resident. "I am praying that they don't have it, and it is not good for this community right now. Little children are getting hold of firearms shooting for no reason at all."

Dr. Alli Muhammad, head of the party, said the group did submit the necessary paperwork, but were denied.

Muhammad said the law does not apply to the march because it does not fall under the umbrella of picketing, protesting or parades.

"This is an armed special event, a freedom of expression armed special event in reference of genocide or acts that have been done, against the genocide or terrorism of people of African descent," Muhammad said.

Participants still plan to march with their weapons Sunday, and Muhammad said they are prepared to take legal action if necessary.

The party holds marches in other parts of the country. Muhammad said all previous marches have been peaceful.

"We are strictly against violent crime, terrorism, genocide," Muhammad said. "That's what we stand on. We don't believe in terrorism or violence at all... We're there to protect all human beings and all humanity and all people regardless of race, color or creed. We do stand up for human rights."

There will be a tribunal Saturday at 2:30 at the Creekwood Community Center, and the march will happen Sunday at 1:30 in the Creekwood area.

"As long as it is peaceful I don't have a problem with protesting," said Miles Melvin, a Creekwood resident. "Every protest has its advantages and disadvantages. People have a story to be out there and I think people need to listen to the story."

Brandon Smith died in October 2013, after being shot more than two dozen times by New Hanover County Sheriff's deputies. Smith had been on the run for two days after authorities said he shot a deputy in the leg in Wilmington's Creekwood Community. The officers involved in Smith's shooting death were cleared of any wrongdoing.

Walter Scott was unarmed when he was shot and killed by a white North Charleston police officer in April 2015. Officer Michael Slager was charged with murder after video surfaced of him shooting Scott in the back as he ran away. The case recently resulted in a mistrial because of a hung jury and is scheduled to be retried in March.

Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by an African-American Charlotte police officer. Police said he had a handgun and refused to comply with their orders. His shooting death prompted riots in Charlotte in September. The district attorney has since determined that the police officer who shot Scott acted lawfully.

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