As public defender Toussaint Romain walked through the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina Thursday night, protesters came up to him, clasping hands and thanking him for his leadership — though he humbly refuses to call it that.
It was the third night of protests in the city after police shot Keith Lamont Scott dead on Tuesday, in an incident where police say he was armed, but his family insists he wasn’t.
On the second night, demonstrations turned violent as some protesters looted and clashed with police in riot gear who deployed tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Romain, clad in a dress shirt and tie, came between the police and the protesters, calling for peace and telling those pushing for violence to go home.
“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 Wednesday night. “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.”
As he walked the more peaceful streets with Sanchez again on Thursday night, Romain said he was encouraged by the fact that there weren’t any incidents of violence so far.
“When I went home last night, I kissed my kids and I told them I loved them, because I didn’t know if I was going to make it home last night,” he said. “But I have hope that we gotta make it better. Tomorrow’s going to be a better day. This protest right now is much better. The clergy is here, adults are here — black and white.”
Romain has been a public defender in Charlotte for the last eight years, and an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte for the past six, according to his LinkedIn page. He also volunteers with several non-profit organisations in the city.
“This is what happens when leaders show up. This is what happens when we come together as a nation,” Romain said on CNN Thursday night.
“You have to realise, man, we’re in this together. And we have to come back every day. I’ll come back every day, and I’ll come back each day after that until we make sure that we make it better for my kids — if you have kids, for yours — and for our nation. We have to get better. And I have every hope, and every reason to believe that we will.”
People seem to be responding to Romain’s inspirational words.
Toussaint Romain is the best of us all
— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) September 23, 2016
Toussaint Romain run for mayor Bruh . So I can vote for you ✊????
— TTimeNumba9 〽️♈️ (@Ayo_TTime9) September 23, 2016
Toussaint Romain to CNN, his voice cracking: “We’re here to say enough is enough.”
— Théoden Janes (@theodenjanes) September 22, 2016
Toussaint Romain is a true hero. Thank you for being a mediator, a peaceful voice. A true servant.
— Clif Dixon (@CDixonDesign) September 22, 2016
He’s Toussaint Romain. Public Defender. Charlotte hero for a long time, including tonight. CNN interviewing him in just a few minutes. https://t.co/oNQpo1UUhW
— Brian Baute (@BrianBaute) September 22, 2016