Settlement reached with Charlotte, CMPD over 2020 clash with protesters

CHARLOTTE — On Monday, Channel 9 expects to hear from the NAACP and some of those who sued the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department over CMPD’s use of force tactics used during protests last summer.

On Monday morning, both sides and their attorneys plan to speak about where they’d like to see police go from here.

Civil rights groups announced Friday that they had reached a settlement with the City of Charlotte and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department over last year’s clash with protesters.

The settlement came more than one year after the American Civil Liberties Union, the Charlotte Chapter of the NAACP and other groups filed a lawsuit over actions taken by the police department during a June 2 protest over the death of George Floyd.

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The lawsuit said police arranged a violent attack on peaceful protesters, which included trapping them in a tactic called “kettling,” and assaulting them with rubber bullets, tear gas and flash-bang grenades.

Police released body camera video months later showing how officers had orchestrated the attack, after sealing off escape routes.

“I could see the smoke and the bangs and when I turned around to see what’s happening, and I see the same thing happening right behind us,” said Kristie Puckett-Williams, statewide manager of the ACLU of North Carolina’s Campaign for Smart Justice. She was there that night.

>> Click here to read the full settlement.

According to the ACLU, the terms of the settlement include extensive revisions to CMPD directives, including a ban on the use of CS tear gas during protests and a ban on the use of chemical weapons to “kettle” or trap protesters. The agreement reportedly states that dispersal orders must be communicated clearly and repeatedly in English and Spanish, allowing protesters reasonable time to disperse.

There is also a provision that prohibits CMPD from directing pepper balls at protesters’ heads and necks, according to the ACLU. A provision also states that police must identity at least two escape routes for protesters to take.

Officials said the agreement also states that bikes cannot be used as weapons during protests, except when someone poses a threat to safety.

“People should not be brutalized when they are exercising their right to protest,” Puckett-Williams said. “This agreement is a step in the right direction, but it’s insufficient to reckon with the violence and trauma protesters endured at the hands of police across the state last year.”

The agreement will be in effect for four years and provides a mechanism to enforce violations by the department, according to the ACLU.

CMPD pointed out that they began making changes on their own not long after the protests, including, for example, stopping the use of tear gas for crowd control and making sure that protesters do have escape routes if they need them.

They did acknowledge that the NAACP and ACLU did provide input on some of those changes.

CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings released the following statement on Twitter after the settlement was announced:

“My response to the NAACP lawsuit. Following the events that occurred on June 2, 2020, CMPD reviewed and revised several of its policies, directives and standard operating procedures including the Civil Emergency Unit’s SOP as we identified several areas where we could improve.

We made those changes accordingly including the removal of CS as a chemical agent for crowd control, egress routes, dispersal order procedures, use of riot control agents and more.

The NAACP provided input on some dispersal order language as well as contributed some new language on the use of public order bikes and dual sports. We appreciate the points that were brought to our attention by the NAACP as these constructive criticisms always make us better.

We are a learning agency and always looking for ways to improve as we owe that to the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County and all of those we serve because it is the right thing to do.”

The parties to the lawsuit and their attorneys will be speaking Monday at 8:30 a.m. to explain the impact of the settlement and where they would like to see police go from here.

(WATCH: Disciplined sergeant cut off body camera during CMPD’s clash with protesters in June)