'Devoid of violence’: Protesters, police work together during passionate uptown marches

CHARLOTTE — More protests are expected to take place in uptown Charlotte Friday and city leaders are trying hard to engage with the community, listening to people’s concerns and make meaningful changes.

City council has said it really wants to make sure protesters know they are listening and considering change, and have held “Community Conversations” outside the Government Center.

Unfortunately, the city of Charlotte announced Friday that their 5:30 p.m. Community Conversation would be canceled because of the likelihood of thunderstorms this evening.

Over the last two nights, the protests held in the Queen City have been passionate, and largely peaceful.

Chopper 9 Skyzoom flew over the crowds again Thursday night in uptown. We saw hundreds of people marching, chanting, holding signs, praying and singing all at various times throughout the night.

City Councilman Braxton Winston tweeted that he was proud of the people of Charlotte.

“I think it’s offering some perspective, maybe breaking down some barriers and misunderstanding,” said one demonstrator.

Something new we saw Thursday night was Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department communications director Rob Tufano walking with protesters, engaging with them and answering questions while broadcasting throughout the night on Facebook Live.

“They're vocal,” he said. “Some may be intimidated by the language and the passion, but that’s how some people express themselves, and that's fine. There's nothing unlawful about that.”

The atmosphere during the protests has changed dramatically the last couple of nights. Crowds have unified and made a conscious effort to stop any agitators who may try to disrupt them -- and that has allowed police to really get up close and listen to demonstrators.

The crowds on Thursday night marched peacefully through the streets of uptown, shouting in unison trying to raise awareness of racism, civil injustice and police brutality following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

No major incidents were reported, just two nights after video streamed live by alternative newspaper Queen City Nerve went viral. Protesters in the crowd said police trapped them and fired off tear gas at them unprovoked.

On Thursday night, while walking with the crowd and streaming live, Tufano interviewed the Queen City Nerve reporter who recorded Tuesday night’s incident.


Posted by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department on Thursday, June 4, 2020

“No matter how the chief feels about it, no matter how the SBI feels about it, no matter what you saw from the air or from the ground, the people were ambushed,” Justin Lafrancois told Tufano.

“It's a profession made up of people and sometimes people make mistakes,” Tufano told him. “Sometimes people make missteps.”

The SBI is looking into the incident and CMPD Chief Kerr Putney is also calling for all the video to be released. One of the protesters in the crowd on Tuesday night told Channel 9 they have filed a formal complaint with the city.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department issued the following release on Thursday night’s events:

June 4, 2020, marked the seventh consecutive day of protests in the City of Charlotte. Members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and community, alike, worked together throughout the evening to allow for the expression of all viewpoints, and this partnership resulted in only lawful demonstrations.

Around 6:00 p.m. yesterday, nearly 150 protesters gathered at Freedom Park located at 1908 East Boulevard. Their demonstrations remained lawful, and the protest concluded a few hours later.

Around 8:00 p.m., a group of protesters gathered at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center located at 600 East 4th Street. The group then marched to Police Headquarters, and officers joined them to talk and answer questions. Shortly before 9:15 p.m., a group of about 200 protesters left Romare Bearden Park, and both groups joined to march together. The march remained lawful throughout its duration and concluded around 1:45 a.m.

There were no officers injured, no objects thrown, no assaults, and no property was damaged. Because the protest was lawful, there was no use of dispersal orders or Riot Control Agents (RCA).

Last’s night’s protests were an excellent example of the exercise of First Amendment Rights. Viewpoints were expressed freely, passionately and devoid of violence.

Demonstrators hold rally promoting justice; CMPD enhances neglect of duty policy

A demonstration was organized Thursday night by Charlotte Uprising to demand justice and to seek change after seven nights of protests.

[READ MORE: More protests to take place in uptown following largely peaceful march]

Minutes before the event, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney announced enhanced changes to the department’s neglect of duty policy amid protests over George Floyd’s death and concerns with police brutality.

The change says officers have the duty to act immediately if they witness egregious use of force.

CMPD tweeted: “The added language now states: Officers will take appropriate and immediate action in any situation in which they know or should have known their failure to act would result in an excessive response to resistance or egregious behavior which shocks the conscience.”

During the demonstration in Freedom Park, there were two parts to the protests. First was a memorial for Geroge Floyd and then members from Charlotte Uprising broke off into four groups for some very focused learning.

Many people shared love through messages that were written to honor the life of George Floyd.

“People out here want to express themselves and show the family love in different ways. Not just protesting, not just chanting," said Kass Ottley with Seeking Justice CLT.

Ottley said this is just another way to push for change, and they won’t be backing down.

“People are tired. People are sick of it. We want change, and we can’t wait anymore so we’re going to keep applying pressure until we get it,” she said.

Jahara Davis is a mother and eighth-grade teacher. She also joined in on the demonstration.

“For me, it is important that our future, our legacy understands that we stand with you. That we no longer want to see the discrimination, the racism because we have had to deal with it from generations before," Davis said.

Later, Charlotte Uprising took over and led group discussions on four topics: the history of resistance and policing, jail support, medic training -- for those who are injured during protests, and direct action training.

“We’re doing what’s called a people university. We’re ensuring folks have the information they need to go into the streets and be safe," said Glow Merriweather with Charlotte Uprising.

Merriweather said the main message on Thursday was change, and everyone Channel 9 spoke to said they will continue with that message until it’s understood.

“I’m tired, and I’m hurting. And what I would like for people to understand is what we’re doing is not out of anger. It’s out of hurt,” Merriweather said.