HAMPTON — “A lot of people are uptight. A lot of people are frustrated. You have a lot of people — residents — are moving out of town, are moving away,” said Pastor Rashad Cartwright, referring to people in Ferguson, Missouri. “They feel like there’s not going to be an indictment.”
Cartwright, who leads Experience Life Church, spent time in the town shortly after Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in August. Brown, who was black, was not armed at the time. Wilson is white.
Weeks of protests, many that took violent turns, followed Brown’s death.
As people in Ferguson wait to find out if a grand jury will indict Wilson, there is a new wave of demonstrations taking place. Missouri’s governor declared a state of emergency Monday and activated the state’s National Guard.
“They are now trying to block all traffic that’s going into Ferguson,” said Cartwright, explaining that the activation could complicate his plans to return to the town this week. “They’re looking at the airports ’cause they’re expecting it to be, you know, pretty intense.”
Cartwright said many people in Missouri believe the activation of the National Guard indicates that the governor doesn’t expect the grand jury to return an indictment. He believes one reason for the decision actually is to make sure people, homes, and properties are protected if there is some sort of a violent response. He pointed out much of the destruction and looting that came during protests earlier this year were at the hands outsiders who converged on Ferguson.
Cartwright, who spoke at rallies and services during his first visit, told 13News Now his job this time will involve much of the same work he did when he was there before: to support people who live in Ferguson and to make their voices heard, but to do it in a peaceful way that does not take away from discussions about race relations and the use of force by police.
“If you’re going to speak up, speak up. That’s all right. If you want to hold a sign, hold a sign. If you want to yell out, yell out, but let’s not destroy, let’s not let that outrage, that bottle that’s been shaken be able to destroy, make a sideshow,” the pastor said. “Let’s use this as a time that we can learn and we can better ourselves and come together as a true people.”
Cartwright hopes to head to Ferguson Friday morning and return to Hampton Roads late Saturday.