Editor’s note: This is part of series of stories from WRAL TechWire focusing on the calls to action by African American executives in the Research Triangle technology sector following the death of George Floyd. Previous stories are linked at the end of this post. 

RALEIGH — By day, Johnny Hackett works as a process architect for Wells Fargo by day. Outside of the office, the 36-year-old Raleigh local works on his startup #BlackDollarNC – an online “rolodex” of more than 400 black-owned or operated businesses across the state.

After peaceful protests turned violent on Sunday night in Raleigh, he was among a handful of business owners standing guard to protect property. It came in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of police.

Today, he, along with other African American business leaders in the community, are calling for lasting change.

Here’s what he had to say:

  • What’s your view on the ground?

Overall, there are some very good things happening with the organized protests from all races and backgrounds. They have protested peacefully and at times have seen elevated activity of them trying to protect themselves from police engagement, which is understandable. On Sunday morning, I was downtown Raleigh helping with the cleanup with a large piece of the Raleigh community – again, these are some great things.

The darker side of what I’ve seen is chronicled in a Facebook post. I don’t think anyone has a problem with protests, but there is a small amount of people who have no knowledge or care about the social injustice issue we are fighting, and are using that as an opportunity to do “other things”. It’s a small group, but will most likely dominate the media (and damage done on the ground). We cannot excuse that behavior (from this group) by using “the cause” – because “this group” does not care about George Floyd.

  • What should be done on a local level to affect change?

As much as I may not like the curfew, it actually should have been done after the first night. We waited too late. If you read my above Facebook post, we never should have had to do that. As far as what can happen next locally, the city should really consider the police oversight committee (that I heard about), as well as take a hard stand against police brutality and injustice within the legal system. I know that this issue really sparked from George Floyd’s case, but we don’t want to ever be the city where a case like this happens again.

  • Is this a watershed moment?

It is – not because George Floyd’s life was any more valuable than others who have had their lives taken away in this manner – but because everyone is tired of our president…who many believe has had the ability to ease tensions during this time, but decided to throw gasoline on a lit fire. I think folks are tired of him, and are using another situation that we are tired of to make a bold statement.

  •  Where do we go from here?

As for Raleigh, we’ve got to start the rebuild – literally and figuratively. We must rebuild our businesses that had property damage (quickly), because we don’t want that small percentage of rioters to win in any way (but they did inflict a ton of damage). City leaders should speak out to ask for charges on the other officers involved in George Floyd’s death (as that would end this).

We must also move forward with some of the policing initiatives that have been put forth by some of the protest organizers. I don’t know if this has been mentioned, but cops don’t “walk” their patrol areas or neighborhoods that often – if at all. Something as simple as that would allow law enforcement to get to know their community members, hopefully preventing senseless violence and murder. As for protests (because I don’t know if they will end) – just like law enforcement has a “color” they use to identify UC’s in the crowd, the organizers of protests should also use some type of “coloring” system.

We have to identify the peaceful protesters away from the ones that just want to cause damage. Protest organizers should collaborate with police on that system and information.

Other execs speak out

Tim Humphrey, IBM’s top NC exec, joins African American tech leaders’ call for action to deal with racial issues

African American leaders in Triangle tech community demand change in wake of George Floyd’s death

African American tech leaders in Triangle demand change – Donald Thompson, Walk West, speaks out

African American tech leaders in Triangle demand change – Global Data CEO William Spruill criticizes ‘inherent biases’

African American tech leaders in Triangle demand change – Margaret Brunson says ‘we’re at a turning point’

African American tech leaders in Triangle demand change – writer Angela Connor calls for ‘courageous acts’