Ken Nwadike Jr. is the founder of the Free Hugs Project which is “an initiative that spreads love, inspires change and raises awareness of social issues through motivational videos,” according to its Facebook page.
Nwadike has been traveling throughout the country this year, including events for both Democrats and Republicans — including Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders — trying to spread the group’s positive message.
Nwadike was in nearby South Carolina giving a speech when he heard about the Charlotte riots. He decided to take a car ride to the protests. He certainly made his presence felt.
In Charlotte’s highly charged protests, however, Nwadike was not so welcome by protesters, particularly when he hugged police officers in riot gear. He told CNN “I think there were probably issues on both sides … I think that there was a little bit of aggression from the police officers, but also the people in Charlotte yesterday.”
Charlotte, a major U.S. city, and the largest city in North Carolina, has been embroiled in violent protests in the heels of the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. “I think it was individuals that came out and all decided, well, here’s how I want to lash out my anger as an individual, and protests don’t work like that if there’s not cohesiveness,” Nwadike said.
The 34 year old Nawadike said that his goal was to “help keep the peace.” He did not know how the parties would receive him when he arrived in Charlotte. “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.”
“There are good cops and there are bad cops,” he 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.”