CHARLOTTE — Following several nights of protests where things started peacefully but turned violent in uptown Charlotte, marches Wednesday night remained fairly quiet.
It was the sixth day of protests in the city, with more expected on Thursday.
Channel 9 crews were with the crowd as they kneeled after 11 p.m. at an intersection and Chopper 9 Skyzoom flew over a large group that marched peacefully. The vast majority of protesters have been peaceful, demanding change after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The scenes Wednesday night were much different from the tension we’ve seen in the streets of uptown since Friday night. For days, we've heard from people trying to stop other protesters from acting violently toward police.
“Whoever threw that water bottle, you are not here for the right reasons,” one person said Wednesday night, admonishing another demonstrator.
Earlier in the day, Mayor Vi Lyles invited the public to the front of the Government Center to discuss a controversial video from the night before.
Charlotte city leaders marched with protesters Wednesday night, following questions about how police are breaking up the crowds after video streamed live on Facebook Tuesday night by alternative local newspaper Queen City Nerve seemed to show officers boxing in hundreds of protesters on Fourth Street before firing pepper bullets and tear gas at them.
The SBI is now investigating the incident, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said he will immediately petition the courts to have body camera videos released at the conclusion of that investigation.
- The SBI will look into whether the department’s actions were legal.
- Once that is complete, Putney will ask a judge to release of all the video evidence related to the incident.
- Meanwhile, CMPD said there is nothing to indicate any intentional abuse by officers.
Charlotte City Council met for almost four hours in closed session on Wednesday to talk about the police response. Afterward, Mayor Vi Lyles said there are no words to describe what happened.
Putney said the video doesn't reflect the officers who protect the community.
“I wish it told the full story,” he said. “I just don’t like how it looked and it flies in the face of what we are morally as an organization because our goal is to allow for lawful protest. However, what is missed sometimes is when property damage occurs it's no longer a protest -- it's a riot.”
Mario Black said he was with the group that came under attack Tuesday night and told Channel 9 the crowd was loud and frustrated, but not physically harming officers. He’s still trying to figure out what caused police to justify that kind of force.
“It was too much force,” Black said. “It was just an unimaginable feeling. I’m still trying to gather my thoughts as to why.”
Lawmakers representing Mecklenburg County are concerned about how CMPD is responding to the protests.
The group said, “Every person in our community has the constitutional right to free speech and peaceful assembly. No agent of government -- law enforcement or otherwise -- can arbitrarily violate those rights. Protests should remain free from violence. When they are not, the safety of everyone -- protestors and law enforcement alike -- is endangered. While law enforcement should have the tools to reasonably and responsibly prevent lawbreaking, they must also exercise due restraint."
The lawmakers said they support the SBI investigating the situation.
“Last night was one of those times that none of us can be proud of, that we wouldn’t want to see happen in our city, but it did,” Lyles said Wednesday.
She encouraged people to attend the discussion and address concerns in front of the Government Center. The crowd then asked the mayor to march with them. Lyles and other city leaders continued to walk in peace and then the crowd demanded to speak with Putney.
Putney said on a loudspeaker to the crowd: “I am absolutely sorry for what last night looked like on the video.”
Putney told them he did not give the order for what happened on Fourth Street the night before.
“Just to start, I understand the frustration,” Putney told the crowd. “I have it too, but what I wanna know is what do we really wanna do about it?”
He said officers are authorized to disperse a crowd when the situation gets violent.
At 11 p.m. Wednesday, reporters Joe Bruno and Glenn Counts said the demonstration remained peaceful as the crowd of hundreds continued to march through uptown.
But shortly after that report, police were forced to block protesters from moving toward I-277 on Third Street for their safety, and CMPD said water bottles were being thrown at officers.
CMPD deployed flash bangs and pepper balls at the crowd after protesters threw bottles and at least one firework at riot officers.
Some protesters yelled at their comrades to stop throwing things.
Within 45 minutes, the situation calmed down and things became peaceful once again.
“For the most part, 99% of tonight’s protests, it was extremely peaceful," reporter Joe Bruno tweeted. "The leaders did a great job.”
On Thursday morning, CMPD released the following in reference to Wednesday night’s protests:
June 3, 2020, marked the sixth day of protests in the City of Charlotte. Officers of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department are diligently continuing their efforts in facilitating lawful demonstrations to allow for the expression of all viewpoints. When demonstrations become violent, officers are dedicated to restoring order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the public.
Around 4:00 p.m. yesterday, approximately 300 protesters gathered at Myers Park High School located at 2400 Colony Road and began to march in the area. This demonstration remained lawful throughout its duration, and concluded a few hours later.
Shortly after 6:30 p.m., a group of protesters who gathered at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center located at 600 East 4th Street began to march in the streets of Uptown Charlotte. Before they began to march, the CMPD’s Chief of Police Kerr Putney joined the group of protesters to speak with them. The first few hours of the demonstration remained lawful and involved cooperation between the police and protesters. At one point, a protester found a firework and gave it to police in efforts to keep the protest lawful.
Shortly after 11:00 p.m., a few protesters began to throw cones into the street, and fireworks were thrown into the crowd. The CMPD prevented protesters from walking onto the interstate. Protesters then began throwing bottles, rocks and fireworks at officers. Within a span of around 10 minutes, there were at least five separate instances of these objects being thrown at officers, so Riot Control Agents (RCA) were deployed to protect the public, reduce the harm to officers and preserve property. The use of the RCA was effective and dispersed those who were assaulting officers.
A few other protesters pulled down an American flag from a flag pole, which was burned. One protester attempted to open a stack of bricks with a knife, and a few other protesters were seen arming themselves with bats. Multiple vehicles joined and followed the protesters, and several drove recklessly, endangering those demonstrating. As a result, several traffic stops were conducted, and five people were arrested for reckless driving.
A total of 11 protesters were arrested last night as a result of their actions which endangered officers and the community. Four of those arrested were in possession of weapons, and officers seized two firearms, a knife and a bat.
Over the last five days, more than 120 people have been arrested as a result of the riots. At least 22 weapons have been seized as a result of these arrests, and more than 85 of those arrested are from the Charlotte area. A total of 12 officers have sustained injuries requiring medical attention. The CMPD is actively investigating all criminal activity and is working to prevent the harm and destruction caused by the violent acts of rioting. As is standard procedure with any use of RCAs, the CMPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau is conducting an investigation to determine whether the CMPD’s policies and procedures were adhered to during last night’s riots.
© 2020 Cox Media Group