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'Free Hugs' on offer in Charlotte amid violent protests

Hugs, not protests, is what brought Ken Nwadike to Charlotte, North Carolina, a city which is seeing violent nightly demonstrations following the shooting death of an unarmed black man by a police officer.

Wearing a black t-shirt with 'Free Hugs' emblazoned in white writing on the front and a matching hand-held sign, Ken Nwadike is in North Carolina's largest city in a bid "to spread love" by offering free hugs to protestors and police, the 34-year-old writes on his movements Facebook page, Free Hugs Project.

Nwadike is hopeful his movement will put an end to the violence in Charlotte as police and protestors clash over the death of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott.

In an online video showing members of the project hugging police officers and trying to calm demonstrators, Nwadike says "it was difficult being on the frontline fighting for peace" as the violence escalated and one protestor was shot dead.

"Hate and violence won't fix the damage that has been done, only love can do that," he wrote in a Facebook post after attending the demonstration.

Free hugs for all

Nwadike's message of peace, unity and positivity is simple, yet profound. But, it was another tragedy which bore the idea for his social movement.

Following the Boston Marathon bombing in spring 2013, Nwadike says he was taken by the devastation of the carnage which left six people dead and 280 injured. That attack, he adds, drove him to want to participate in the next race.

Failing to qualify for the event by just 23 seconds, the movements' leader decided to attend in a different way.

"I provided free hugs to runners as encouragement along the route. This simple act made national news headlines and lifted runners' spirits. Hugs produced smiles and gave runners an extra boost as they ran," Nwadike says.

A better world

Wanting to change the world for the better, the initiative's founder has travelled across the US spreading his positive message and handing out hugs to strangers - from the floods in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to rallies held by presidential nominee Donald Trump, where Nwadike encouraged people to "Make America LOVE again," to vigils across the country following other tragic events.

The Free Hugs campaign is nothing new. Starting in Australia in 2004, by a man known only by the pseudonym "Juan Mann," the social movement gathered momentum in 2006 as a result of a music video on YouTube by the Australian rock band Sick Puppies.

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