Charlotte Protests Turn Violent for Third Night as Riot Police Pepper Spray Demonstrators Blocking Highway and Mayor Imposes Curfew
Khaleda Rahman et al., Daily Mail, September 23, 2016
Protests in Charlotte turned violent for a third night when police in riot gear used pepper spray on demonstrators who blocked a highway.
Officers stormed a line of protesters who had formed a human chain on I-277 and blocked traffic.
The cops batted them with their shields and pushed them off the road, deploying pepper spray.
A dozen of the demonstrators were hit and were unable to open their eyes as they screamed: ‘It burns!’
The protesters had come prepared and had milk in spray bottles which helps overcome the efforts of pepper spray.
One girl sat on a curb sobbing as she cleaned her eyes with her hand. Another man with his shirt off was covered in milk.
Blocking the highway had caused cars caught in the chaos to turn around and drive the wrong way down the road. Police blocked off both sides.
The incident happened a little over an hour before the midnight curfew and afterwards the protesters began to regroup. Police have now cleared the highway.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department tweeted that two officers are being treated after they were sprayed with a chemical agent by demonstrators. However, no civilians were injured during Thursday’s demonstration.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said on Thursday night that she had signed documents to impose a curfew from midnight to 6am.
She said she expected it to be in place for multiple days until officials determine they no longer need it.
Hours before nightfall on Thursday, the police chief had said he saw no need for a curfew.
However, shortly after the curfew got underway, Charlotte police said they don’t plan to forcibly remove protesters from the street after curfew as long as the situation remains peaceful.
Capt. Mike Campagna told CNN the midnight curfew is a tool the police can use if it becomes necessary, but they hope that won’t be the case.
Campagna added people inside the group of demonstrators helped keep things peaceful on Thursday.
He said community members intervened with aggressors after seeing the need when protests became violent on Wednesday night.
The National Guard were deployed to prevent a third night of violent riots in Charlotte as protesters massed on the city’s streets to mount pressure on police to release video that could resolve wildly different accounts of Tuesday’s shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.
Demonstrators chanted ‘release the tape’ while briefly blocking an intersection near the Bank of America’s headquarters in the heart of the city’s business district. They then continued marching as police officers watched.
Members of the National Guard carrying rifles were deployed in front of office buildings to head off another night of violence in a city on edge.
Officers warned protesters to disperse at times when they stopped in front of buildings, but the demonstration remained peaceful in the hour after darkness fell.
In addition to the National Guardsmen, North Carolina state troopers and U.S. Justice Department conflict-resolution experts were sent to keep the peace.
By 9pm, the protests had been peaceful and a group of 500 people were marching through the Central Business District.
But there were tense moments and the crowd stormed up the steps of the Government Center right in the faces of five National Guard troops stationed out the front.
The crowd pointed and shouted at the soldiers until some of the protest organizers moved them on.
The protesters did the same at the police headquarters but quickly calmed down and moved on.
As the crowd matched around the streets motorists caught up in the protest had to to sit in their cars and listen to them chanting: ‘No justice no peace!’
The group also chanted: ‘Release the tape! Release the tape!’–a reference to the police dash cam footage of Mr Scott, which Charlotte police are not making public.
At the Omni hotel, a line of National Guard troops with an armored vehicle stood guard outside the entrance to the car park. Many of the other hotels had riot police out the front.
So far, police have resisted releasing police body camera and dash cam footage of the death of 43-year-old Scott.
His family was shown the footage on Thursday and demanded that it be released to the public. The family’s lawyer said he couldn’t tell whether Scott was holding a gun.
But Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said earlier in the day the footage of Scott’s killing could undermine the investigation.
He said the video will be made public when he believes there is a ‘compelling reason’ to do so.
‘You shouldn’t expect it to be released,’ Putney said. ‘I’m not going to jeopardize the investigation.’
Meanwhile Scott’s mother claims he was reading the Koran while waiting to pick his son up from the school bus.
‘That’s a task for him every day, so he can be out there to get a special spot,’ Vernita Scott Walker told WBTV. ‘He sits in the truck and reads his book [the Koran].
‘He loved to read that book, he loved to read that book.’