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A call to justice 

Sharpton expected to weigh in on sheriff controversy

When people gather at Greater Mount Sinai Baptist Church on Jan. 31, they won't just be there to show support for embattled Mecklenburg County Sheriff-elect Nick Mackey. They will be protesting what event organizers call a "contradiction in the process."

Dwayne Collins, one of the organizers of the rally, says that the situation with Mackey deserves national attention because of the injustice of it all.

The Rev. Al Sharpton is expected to speak at the rally and possibly give national attention to the fact that Mackey hasn't been confirmed as Mecklenburg County sheriff nearly two months after he was voted in by the Mecklenburg County Democratic party.

"Many people in the community feel that racism has played a role [in the process]," says Collins, who added that he doesn't share that opinion personally.

"Before the process started, there were rules and regulations given to the Board of County Commissioners by the county attorney. Those rules were then given to the head of the Democratic Party, and then those rules were given to [Mackey and acting Sheriff Chipp Bailey]," says Collins. "Both followed the rules and regulations."

Then, Collins says, the county attorney told commissioners that another law, which would've given the commissioners the power to appoint the sheriff, should've been followed.

"My question is the time of it all," Collins says. "Why bring it up two weeks after Mackey won? Maybe the county needs to examine the legal counsel of Mecklenburg County."

The community, according to Collins, is sharply divided on how the situation with Mackey has been handled and voters are watching closely.

"If he's not elected this will be taken into consideration in November when elected officials are seeking re-election," he says. "Some people may not receive a warm reception."

Collins says the rally isn't simply to show support to Mackey, but to shine a light on what many say is an injustice, even if county commissioners say, "we've got to make sure we're doing the right thing."

Since the Dec. 6 election, where Mackey defeated Bailey by 300 votes, there has been a ground swell of controversy about Mackey's selection.

Two grievances were filed with the North Carolina Democratic Party by local activists who alleged that precincts weren't organized properly. The N.C. Democratic Party is scheduled to hold a hearing in Charlotte two days after the rally.

Sharpton's presence in Charlotte certainly brings race to the forefront of this controversy.

Collins says that the process shows all of Charlotte that "at least eight members of the county commissioners have a paternalistic mind set."

"To change the process now suggests that things are not above board," says Collins.

Even though some black Democrats are upset at the way things have unfolded since the December election, Collins says that people aren't leaving the party.

Thursday, state senator Malcolm Graham, who is African-American, told WSOC that "this issue should be resolved by local people -- it's a local issue."

In the interview with the TV station, Graham also stated that Sharpton's visit is a distraction and has the possibility to divide the community more.

Collins is hopeful that this situation will be resolved soon.

Despite all the controversy surrounding the office of the sheriff, Bailey told Creative Loafing earlier this month that it's business as usual inside the sheriff's department and there is enough going on in the county to keep the deputies busy.

Thursday's rally, which will also feature the Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. NAACP, is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Greater Mount Sinai, 1243 West Boulevard.

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