CHARLOTTE — Saturday marks three years since Charlotte City Council met in closed session for 3.5 hours to discuss Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officers who kettled protesters during Charlotte’s George Floyd protests. Channel 9 Government Reporter Joe Bruno made a records request for the meeting minutes the day after the closed-door meeting. Nearly three years later, the city of Charlotte is still blocking the release of those records.
Video of the June 2, 2020 kettling incident by Queen City Nerve was widely circulated. After hundreds of protesters were hit with chemical munitions, the video showed the protesters trapped with no clear path to run. The video showed some protesters having to lift open a parking garage gate to escape the munitions.
Body camera footage released by the city of Charlotte showed a CMPD sergeant laying out what was going to happen.
“Dance platoon is staged on College out of sight. We’re gonna push their a---- straight up Fourth. As soon as I get up on Fourth because we have a bottleneck now, Rory’s squad is going to step up and hammer their a--. they start running down and dance squad is going to step up and hammer their a-- with gas,” the sergeant said.
“Wave goodbye,” the sergeant said in another portion of the video. “They’re all about to get gassed.”
Charlotte City Council met in closed session for 3.5 hours the next day, which is significantly longer than most closed sessions. In a news conference shortly after, Mayor Vi Lyles said they had discussed the kettling incident. Both Lyles and City Manager Marcus Jones condemned the police response.
“The most important thing about that closed session is that councilmembers indicated their heartfelt feelings about that video,” Lyles said.
However, what was specifically said in that meeting remains a mystery to the public.
Over the last three years, Bruno has been trying to obtain the minutes from that meeting to find out what elected and city officials said behind closed doors. Bruno made a records request the day after it happened. He didn’t receive a response for more than two years.
On June 29, 2022, he was officially denied.
Bruno resubmitted his inquiry last month and was denied again.
“The June 3, 2020 emergency meeting closed session minutes contain information involving pending litigation and is protected by the attorney-client privilege,” said media relations manager Lawrence Corley. “At this time, it is not subject to public disclosure.”
The city of Charlotte says the pending litigation is Curlee v. the city of Charlotte.
Dozens of protesters are suing the city of Charlotte for damages as a result of the CMPD response on June 2.
While the city could release the records at any time in the name of transparency, the North Carolina Open Government Coalition says the city is legally able to hold on to them at this point.
“The closed session minutes may be withheld for so long as the disclosure would frustrate the purpose of the closed session,” said N.C. Open Government Coalition Director Brooks Fuller. “However, written communications by an attorney to a public body are made public after three years under NCGS 132-1.1. That does not include minutes, but would include letters or emails sent to the public body.”
Despite the denials, Channel 9 will continue to push for the records to find out as much as we can about the June 2, 2020 response and June 3, 2020, closed session meeting.
The records may also be released to the public through the discovery process in the Curlee v city of Charlotte lawsuit. The lawsuit is ongoing.
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