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Activist Curtis Hayes calls on people to "find a better way" to protest injustice

Activist: "Come up with a better way"
Activist: "Come up with a better way" 07:57

Curtis Hayes, a black 31-year-old man whose impassioned plea for peaceful protesting went viral this week, told CBSN on Monday that he wants his black and white peers to "find a better way" to combat racism and injustice.

"I'm challenging everybody in my race to step up and find a better way, but I am also challenging the white counterparts, my white peers — this starts with you," Hayes told CBSN.

"My people, black people, the black race, the minority, have been fighting for hundreds of years for equality," he said. "We have led the frontline, and we will continue to do so, but we need the white communities who know and feel that right now social injustice is happening. And we need them to step up with us and hold their white peers accountable."

Protests have erupted across the country over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee onto Mr. Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Two autopsies released on Monday concluded that Mr. Floyd's death was a homicide

Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Protesters are calling for the four police officers present to be arrested and charged with murder. Numerous demonstrations have been peaceful, while others have resulted in property destruction and violent responses from law enforcement

A video of Hayes at a protest in Charlotte, North Carolina, urging two black men, ages 16 and 45, to turn their anger into action was shared widely online. Hayes said Monday that he felt compelled to intervene in the situation in order to prevent the teenage protester from turning to rage.

"I do not want that 16-year-old to look at your anger and take it, and turn it into rage," Hayes said of the 45-year-old. "Because you are angry, and I wanted to let him know that I hear you, but there's a way to do it... I want you to turn your anger and use your voice for the better and for the good."

Hayes said people need to understand where the anger is coming from. 

"We read about what's going on and we look at the protests... we only see the images, we only hear people yelling… but we're not listening to what they're yelling about. We're not listening to what they're screaming about, we're not listening to why they are marching," he said. 

"We see the smoke, we see the tear gas, and we think: 'This is chaos.' But no one ever stops to say 'how did we get to the chaos?'"

Hayes is a small business owner, and a father of a five-year-old son. He said he still hasn't "figured out a way" to tell his son about the social injustice faced by African Americans.

"We want our kids to walk in the same footsteps as us and be like us, but I don't want him to walk in the same footsteps as me because I am walking in the footsteps of my ancestors and people before me. I do not want him to experience the social injustice," Hayes said, choking up.

"I do not want him to experience the unequal opportunities that we face right now. I want him to be able to be just a man in America, that raises his kids, that fulfills his purpose, to dedicate his life to being a better man than we all have," he said. 

"I do not want him to walk in the same footsteps or experience the same hurt, the same anger that I have experienced, or my ancestors before me." 

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