NORTH CAROLINA – The man in the middle
Public defender tries to keep peace as Charlotte protests worsen
CHARLOTTE – In his white dress shirt, dark tie and slacks, he stands out among the SWAT police and the mixed crew of civilians.
He was on the ground not long after crowds began gathering in downtown Charlotte to protest the police-involved shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.
His name is Toussaint Romain and he’s a public defender in Charlotte, North Carolina.
He inserted himself between the wall of armored police and the amorphous crowd of demonstrators. As police advanced on the crowd, firing tear gas, he waved his arms forward, gesturing for protesters to leave.
His reason for being there was simple: He can’t take on any more clients.
“We can’t lose any more lives, man. I’m a public defender. I can’t represent any more people,” he told CNN’s Boris Sanchez.
“We don’t need any more people to go to die, no more people to be arrested. We need to take a stand and do it the right way. People are hurting, man. People are upset. People are frustrated. People need leaders. I’m not trying to be that leader. I’m trying to prevent people from being hurt.”
When asked how he felt about the protests turning violent, he responded: “There’s always one that’s going to end up being bad. There’s one other that’s there to do good. I’m here to do good.”
Romain has been a public defender for the past eight years and also teaches criminal justice courses at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, according to his LinkedIn profile.
North Carolina’s public defenders have been beset with funding issues and heavy workloads, leaving them overwhelmed and handling too many cases with less time.