Protesters file lawsuit against Charlotte, CMPD chief after unrest

CHARLOTTE — Leaders of Charlotte Uprising filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Charlotte and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Kerr Putney over the use of police force during September's violent protests

Seven Charlotte residents who are members of Charlotte Uprising filed a federal lawsuit in the Western District Court of North Carolina on Friday seeking a temporary restraining order that would prevent the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department from using force against nonviolent protesters, Charlotte Uprising said in a news release.

A Charlotte Uprising organizer said she was burned with a tear-gas canister in September during the Charlotte unrest after the deadly police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.

Scott, who police said had a gun, was shot and killed by a CMPD officer Sept. 20 in northeast Charlotte.

Tests revealed Scott's fingerprints, DNA and blood were on a gun.

The unrest lasted for several nights resulting in a homicide and agitators who destroyed property prompting a state of emergency in Charlotte and the presence of the National Guard. A midnight curfew was also in place during the protests that turned violent at times.

The protests cost the city of Charlotte $4.5 million, an amount that included mostly payroll and overtime for personnel, along with property damage to city-ran businesses including the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the Charlotte Convention Center.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police incurred the highest costs during the unrest racking up $3.6 million in extra hours and overtime, $247,000 in additional operating expenses and more than $60,000 in direct property damage.

That does not include damage to private property like at the EpiCentre that sustained significant damage during one night of protests.

The complaint asks for a temporary restraining order preventing Charlotte-Mecklenburg police from using tear gas, smoke bombs and intimidation against nonviolent protesters.

Attorneys from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, N.C. Central University's Civil Litigation Clinic and Tin Fulton Walker & Owen filed the complaint.

"The Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have repeatedly resorted to unnecessary and unreasonable uses of force against nonviolent protesters," said David Hall, senior attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. "Using violence and intimidation against people peacefully exercising their constitutional rights is unacceptable and must stop."

An attorney for Charlotte Uprising said the police department uses intimidation and excessive use of force.

"Everyone deserves to have their constitutional rights protected by the police, not violated by them," said Loan Tran, a member of Charlotte Uprising. "The way the police have responded to past protests with violence leads us to believe they will do the same for future protests. The courts should grant this restraining order to make sure everyone who wants to exercise their constitutional rights (is) allowed to do so without intimidation from the police."