CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte faced another tense night of protests with an increased threat to police and demonstrators.
The protest was over the death of 46-year-old George Floyd, a black man who died at the hands of the Minneapolis police after being detained for questioning regarding a possible forgery in progress.
The officer who arrested Floyd, Derek Chauvin, was fired and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The three other officers involved in Floyd’s death were also fired, but no charges have been filed against them at this point.
The protests started around noon Saturday.
CMPD said a group of around 100 demonstrators began to peacefully assemble at the department’s headquarters and officers were able to intermingle and have constructive conversations with community members.
Later in the evening, protesters started blocking traffic on Interstate 277 in uptown.
Police were able to peacefully get people off the interstate. Shortly after that, Channel 9 crews captured a powerful moment of hope when for some reason a protester fell ill and others came and prayed with him. They also prayed for the police.
However, not long after, the situation deteriorated.
People ran at police headquarters after officers used a chemical agent to try to break up the crowd. Over a loudspeaker, we heard police saying they were responding to violence against officers.
“Individuals in the crowd are continuing to throw items at officers. For that reason, you are ordered to leave the area,” officers said.
Throughout the course of the evening, CMPD said between 50 and 75 protesters threw rocks, explosives and other items at officers, police property and into community businesses.
Two officers were taken to the hospital after they were injured during the protests, but they are both expected to be OK.
Still, first responders protected protesters from danger. Around 11:30 p.m. Saturday, a protester fell into a sewer grate and Charlotte firefighters came to rescue that protester.
CMPD reports a group of protesters threw rocks at the firefighters, but 20 minutes later, rescuers were able to take the protester to the hospital for medical treatment.
Even though some protesters acted aggressively, Channel 9′s veteran crime reporter Mark Becker spoke with protesters who want to see this play out peacefully.
“I agree with them. You have a right to protest," one protester said. "But if you don’t have an idea of what I’m protesting for, what I want, see I’m protesting because this is what I wanna see change. I’m protesting because I have specifics on what I want. There’s no specifics on what they want. It’s rage and I understand it. I understand rage. But rage needs to be channeled.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police arrested 30 people and found at least six handguns and rifles in possession illegally.
Officials said there were a variety of charges such as assault on a government official, failure to disperse, breaking and entering, possession of a dangerous weapon at a demonstration and disorderly conduct.
Late Saturday night, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney responded to the violence against his officers.
He said, "We are going to establish order after our officers have been assaulted. We have not been aggressive. We are responding to aggression. We owe it to all members of this community to continue this heroic work. We have done a fantastic job de-escalating situations and I’m proud of our officers work.
In a statement, CMPD expressed that the community’s vocie is important they will always work to protect it and facilitate peaceful and lawful protests.
“Our top priority is to keep the community safe, and we encourage the peaceful expression of every viewpoint, so all interactions are constructive. We will continue working with all our partners at the local, state, and federal levels to address community concerns and protect all who live in and visit our city.”
There are more protests scheduled for Sunday. One is being planned at First Ward Park in uptown by a group of churches.
It is called “It Ends Now.”
They said people raised concerns, wanting to know exactly who is organizing the event. The group posted more information hoping to be transparent.
Some in the area have been wondering if people from outside of Charlotte are busing people in to demonstrate.
City leaders addressed those rumors, saying it really doesn’t matter where the protesters are from.
“Inside, outside groups, it’s irrelevant as long as they stay peaceful,” CMPD Deputy Chief Jeff Estes said. “We welcome all. All citizens have a right to protest peacefully and get the word out with what changes they want affected. We support that right.”
Mayor Vi Lyles echoed that but added if protesters do come into the city to keep a few things in mind.
“We do ask people who come into our city to remind themselves that we are trying to build great neighborhoods that have justice in it and build opportunity,” Lyles said. “If you would take any of those values and honor it, then you would not be organizing in any a way to hurt or harm any of those efforts.”
Police also wanted to make it clear they aren’t against protesters. CMPD even tweeted a photo saying “Sometimes you need the big picture to put it in perspective. If you look, you might miss us and that’s the point. We’re right there beside you and in this together.”
Saturday afternoon, city and county leaders signed a State of Emergency after Friday night’s demonstrations turned violent.
Lyles said she is praying and hoping that peace will win over violence.
During Friday night’s protests, three CMPD officers were hurt and one of their stations along with several of their vehicles were damaged.
Police arrested 15 people Friday, including city councilman Braxton Winston for failing to disperse. He told Channel 9 he was originally at the demonstration with his kids.
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