2016 year in Review

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As 2016 rests in the hands of historians I invite you to take a look at some of stories I covered in the past year. From unrest in Charlotte to traveling cross-country with Trump-supporting truckers, the year was marked by passion and persistence. Whether coping with tragedy or chasing down a dream the human condition once again endured. And while looking forward to what lay ahead, the echoes of 2016 remain.

— Bill Kotsatos, NYC-based freelance photojournalist • contactinstagramtwitter

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Two Nights in Charlotte

Police in riot gear march down Interstate 85 in an effort to remove protesters from the roadway in Charlotte on Thursday, September 22, 2016.

Shortly before 4pm on September 20 in a University of North Carolina apartment complex parking lot in Charlotte, N.C., an African-American married father of seven, Keith Lamont Scott, was shot and killed by Brentley Vinson, an African-American officer with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department after failing to comply with orders to drop his gun. Vinson, along with other CMPD officers, were at the location searching for an unrelated suspect with an outstanding warrant when the encounter with Scott occurred.

At the time police accounts differed greatly from that of the Scott family, in particular his wife, Rdkeyia, who recorded the moment on her mobile phone which police ultimately deemed inconclusive. Scott maintained that her husband was not in possession of a weapon, and that he was shot unjustly.

Police move in with pepper gel and batons to force protesters off an interstate.

Word that a shooting of an unarmed black man spread on social media and thousands descended upon Charlotte in protest. What began as a peaceful demonstration with signs and chants of ’No Justice No Peace’ and ‘Black Lives Matter' eventually turned violent as protesters threw rocks and bottles at police, which resulted in the deployment of tear gas, arrests and non-lifethreatenig injuries.

Protesters run from police after demonstrations become violent.

On November 30, 2016, Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray announced that his office had decided not to charge Vinson and released a report of the investigation. Murray said that Vinson "acted lawfully" and that "All of the credible and available evidence suggests that he [Scott] was in fact armed.

Protesters display signs while marching in Charlotte.

Riot gear police strike demonstrators who block an interstate over the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte on Thursday, September 22, 2016. During the protests 26-year-old protester Justin Carr was shot in the head by 23-year-old Rayquan Borum, who according to police confessed to the crime. Carr died the next day.

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The Sanctity of Gay Clubs

A scene on a balcony at The Empress Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Sunday, July 3, 2016.

Just as summer began to kick-off in early June, a 29-year-old security guard shot and killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Not only was it the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter and the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since September 11, 2001, it also marked the deadliest incident of violence against LGBTQ people in United States history. Most poignantly is that the killings took place in what the queer community has always considered a “safe space" — the gay establishment — those bars, clubs and resorts found in large cities and small towns alike where, up until that day in June, no one ever had to think twice about their safety. The Pulse nightclub shootings wasn’t just an attack on the gay community, but also an attack on the safe space it offered.

The Empress Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Saturday, June 18, 2016. The hotel and its Paradise nightclub have offered the LGBTQ community sanctuary for nearly three decades. In 1998 Shep Pettibone, a widely-respected club DJ and prolific record producer whose writing and producing credits include tracks for Madonna, Pet Shop Boys, Taylor Dane and Labelle, purchased and renovated the one-time luxury resort that in its heyday drew thousands. Notably the East Coat’s largest gay dance club, Paradise and the Empress welcome members of the gay and straight community alike and are open year round, allowing a venue for all patrons to freely and safely be who they are.

A group of friends enjoy the pool at the Empress Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Saturday, June 18, 2016, Spanning the spectrum of age, race, gender and creed, patrons harmoniously assimilate within the confines of these walls to find a collective refuge from the judgment experienced on the outside.

A customer watches bar manager Shane Connor hold open a door for another customer at Ginger’s, the famed lesbian Brooklyn bar. Connor, a life-long bar manager, says he's never seen a fight break out in a gay bar. "They just don't happen in places like this."

Poolside at the Empress Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on Sunday, June 16, 2016.

Lasers and thumping music fill the Paradise nightclub at The Empress Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Friday, July 1, 2016. Some of those who frequent Paradise have been to the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and draw similarities between the two venues, especially when noting the location of the restrooms to that of the dance floor. As they carelessly groove into the weekend there’s someone amid this crowd who now feels compelled to give a visual sweep every so often. Another person in the mix takes note of the exit doors, while attentive bartenders keep watch over their customers like a shepherd to a flock.

Ms. Paradise 2016, Jolina Jasmine, makes her way to the poolside stage at the Empress Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on Saturday, June 18, 2016. As the crowd here goes on with their lives some can’t help but think what they would do if their safe space were to be invaded by a gunman, thus forcing upon them a heightened sense of spatial awareness.

At the Empress Hotel bar.

In between sets during ‘Asbury Park for Pulse,’ a fundraiser for the Orlando shooting victims families, performers ready at the Paradise nightclub in the Empress Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Friday, June 17, 2016. The event drew 1,300 attendees and raised over $20,000, and was conceived as a show of love and support for the slain.

Ivo Futselaar and Bronson Johnson relax as their food arrives at the Empress Hotel’s pool in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Saturday, June 17, 2016. For the young couple a gay club allows them to feel safe and secure and although they mourn the Orlando victims, they contend that the tragic events will only make them stronger.

A performer readies before hitting the stage for ‘Asbury Park for Pulse’ at the Paradise nightclub.

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Truckers for Trump

Inside the mobile chapel of the Christian group Transport For Christ in Ontario, Calif., on Wednesday, July 13, 2016.

Jim and Lorraine Morrison have always admired Donald Trump so when the New York real estate billionaire announced his candidacy for the 2016 Presidential Election, the husband and wife trucking team took to Facebook and launched Truckers for Trump, a network of professional truck drivers in support of Mr. Trump. The group, comprised of nearly 5,000 professional long-haul drivers across the U.S., is set to converge upon the Republican National Convention in Cleveland to not only show their support for Mr. Trump, but to also bring about a greater awareness to their struggling industry. The Morrison's planned on leading a large cross-country convoy to the RNC but instead were met by a handful of truckers in Cleveland.

Truckers for Trump organizers Jim and Lorraine Morrison begin their cross-country trek in Chino, Calif., on Wednesday, July 13, 2016.

The Morrison’s 8-year-old daughter Zelda pulls her own weight while on the road with her parents.

Lorraine Morrison meets a family of Trump supporters on their land outside Billings, Montana.

Zelda spends time reading her favorite book while riding in the family's rig. The family of three and their two dogs are hauling dry goods from California to Minnesota with various drop-offs in between, then headed to Cleveland in time for RNC. Even though they have a GoFundMe page the couple vastly self-fund Truckers for Trump and find the reward in doing their part to help Mr. Trump become the 45th President of the United States.

Truck driver Carlos Jordan receives a Truckers for Trump T-shirt from Lorraine Morrison at a truck stop in Ontario, California.

Zelda plays with her puppy on the floor of the cab while headed to Nebraska.

The Christian group Transport For Christ prays with the Truckers for Trump for their safe journey to Cleveland.

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Your Neighborhood Militia

Anthony Casbar of The Last Ohio Militia takes aim while on a 50 meter movement drill during a weekend exercise in rural Lynchburg, Oh., on Sunday, November, 13, 2016.

The survival preparedness group The Last Ohio Militia, a private men’s only LLC licensed club based in Hamilton, Ohio, is committed to enhancing and learning about preparedness, weapons firing, First-Aid and field maneuvers. Founded in 2009 by co-workers Walt Simms and Richard Dame over worries of economic collapse and natural disaster, the group focuses on survival, self-sustainability, the needs of its members and families during times of strife.

The Last Ohio Militia practice the extraction of wounded personnel while laying down live-round cover fire during monthly training and drill exercises.

The militia's cut, or cut-off, is a light-weight sleeveless, battle dress uniform camouflaged jacket, the back of which is reserved for patches pertaining to the militia itself. A member is free to attach patches to the front and sides of the cut that reflect his own views. The bottom rocker patch with the group’s motto, the Greek phrase Molon Labe, means “Come and take them,” a reference to the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

A member of the militia inspects his AR15 before a drill exercise. With membership in the hundreds the group has chapters in Colorado, Florida, Michigan, New York, Texas and Ohio. Most recently a chapter opened outside Warsaw, Poland.

Members of The Last Ohio Militia at their weekly hangout at a Hooters restaurant in Springdale, Oh., on Thursday, November 10, 2016. Dressed in their battle dress uniforms the group finds that their insignias draw the attention of prospective members, as well as helps solidify their standing in the community.

Maneuvers with an AR15. A point of contention among owners is that the AR does not stand for assault rifle, but rather for the company that designed the weapon, ArmaLite.

Members of The Last Ohio Militia around a campfire during a break in training. Each member has a go-bag at the ready... usually a backpack or duffel bag filled with a First-Aid kit, medicines, a handgun and ammunition, a hunting knife, rain gear and a change of clothing and a three-day supply of food among other important items to have on hand in case of an emergency.

A spent shell flies from its chamber as militia member Jeremy Lacey fires at a gun range in Cincinnati, Oh., on Saturday, November 12, 2016. In addition to the group’s monthly training maneuvers, members keep up their marksmanship skills in their spare time.

The Last Ohio Militia co-founder Walt Simms relaxes by knitting at his home in Fairfield, Oh., on Friday, November 11, 2016. Although the militia leader admits knitting is uncharacteristic for someone in his position, the craft brings him a sense of calm and accomplishment.

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Biketoberfest

Nearly 10,000 bikers attend the 24th Annual Biketoberfest in Daytona Beach, Fl., on October 13, 2016.

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100Days100Faces

Homeless construction worker Paul Merker Paul Merker, Jr., refrains from following each new political headline because he feels that “Politicians offer lost hope."

The last day of July marked the 100-day lead to the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election and the milestone inspired my curiosity about public sentiment on the process through a gorilla-style approach to street portraiture and on-the-ground reporting. The result is #100Days100Faces, where participants can be heard in their own words expressing their views, concerns and hopes regarding the country and that of the next President of The United States.

A progressive who backed Bernie Sanders in the primaries, Whitney Rukab will cast her vote for Hillary Clinton because the 37-year-old feels that Mrs. Clinton will make the issue of health care a priority.

Shot entirely on an iPhone, subjects were chosen at random. No scientific methods were implemented in the sampling of this photo project other than setting up in a public area that offered soft, diffused light, readily available passersby and a place on which to clip a backdrop.

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Singles

Asbury Park, New Jersey.

An unidentified man alleged to hold white supremacist views is surrounded by counter-protesters during a rally for the National Socialists Movement in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, November 5, 2016.

Hoyt Street, Brooklyn.

The Polar Bear Plunge, Coney Island.

Traveling carnival worker, Warren, Oh.

Female skateboarders, Brooklyn.

White Supremacists, Harrisburg, Penna.

Double-Dutch jumpers, Brooklyn.

Weekend carnival, Warren, Oh.

Drive-In Movie Theatre, Warren, Oh.

Coney Island.

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Created By
bill kotsatos
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