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Peaceful Protests Give Way To A Night Of Violence

Wednesday night’s protests in uptown Charlotte over a fatal police shooting began with a peaceful rally at Trade and Tryon streets. But then the crowd went in different directions: Some wound up listening to speeches of unity at an uptown church as others confronted police.

At the end of the work day, about a hundred people stood in silent protest in front of Bank of America headquarters. Signs read "Legalize Being Black," "Stop Killing My Brothers," and "Black Lives Matter."   

Andrew Monroe said he and other organizers wanted a protest that would attract other millennials and professionals.

“We just wanted to show the world that it's not thugs and criminals, it's people, it's professional, it's doctors, lawyers, businessmen, bankers, teachers out here. We are as you are. We are no different from you. All we want is to be treated as such."

They wanted, in their own way, to protest Tuesday's police killing of Keith Scott in northeast Charlotte. Jocelyn Purdie said she's grown tired.

"I've been standing for the Black Live Matters movement for so long, and now that it's right here in my city, my hometown - born and raised in Charlotte - it's too close to home for me now."

Protests in Charlotte Sept. 21, 2016
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
The night's protests began with this peaceful rally at Trade & Tryon streets, near Bank of America headquarters.

As the crowd grew, people began chanting.

Then they marched - first to police headquarters for more chanting and then to Marshall Park, where a larger - and more disorganized protest gathered.

After only a handful of short speeches, the park crowd divided.  One group marched to Little Rock AME Zion Church. There, people like Mario Black called for unity - after Tuesday night's violent protests.  

“It was disheartening. I was born and raised in Charlotte, and never thought that our city as a whole would be in this state, I call it a state of emergency,” he said.

He urged people to channel negative energy into something for good.

But that's not what was happening a few blocks away, near the Epicenter and Omni Hotel on Trade Street.

Protests in Charlotte Sept. 21, 2016
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
Police used teargas to try and clear protesters from the entrance to the Omni Hotel.

At around 8:30 p.m., people suddenly turned and began running down Trade Street, some yelling that someone had been shot. A few people started throwing metal and hotel flower pots at a police car, as it turned around to leave.

Police began firing tear gas to move the crowd back from the hotel entrance. And protesters tossed fireworks back.

Maurice Patton said he saw the shooting.

PATTON: Nahhh. He was standing in front of them protesters and they shot him just like that … what they have to do that for. They shot him in the head.  

Q: Did you see it? 

PATTON: We all seen it.  

City officials said later the police weren't involved - that one civilian had shot another - and that person was on life support. Two other people also were slightly hurt.

Some protesters stayed on city streets past midnight, damaging buildings and shutting down streets. Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency, which would allow the National Guard to be called in if needed.

David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.