Protesters Gather In Charlotte Over George Floyd's Death, Recall Locals Killed In Police Encounters
A crowd of up to 250 people protested outside a CMPD office in north Charlotte on Friday evening, eventually breaking windows until police fired tear gas to disperse those who had gathered. The protest was one of many across the country following the death of George Floyd this past week by a police officer in Minneapolis.
The protest began outside CMPD’s metro division office on Beatties Ford Road. About 150 people gathered and chanted, then began marching north toward Lasalle Street. They stopped traffic at the intersection there and continued chanting. They also confronted individual police officers, who followed the marchers and blocked off traffic behind them.
The crowd then turned back. They again protested at the Metro Division office, shouting a litany of different chants like “No Justice, No Peace,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”
Dr. Rodney Sadler is a minister at Union Presbyterian on Sharon Road. He watched as protesters chanted outside the CMPD office. Sadler says he’s upset about the continued killings of black men, and what he says is the problem of racism preventing meaningful change.
"As long as we think that we’re fundamentally different, and that some people are worthy of more rights than others, these kinds of things are inevitable," Sadler said. "As long as black and brown people can be looked at as they are somehow or another ‘less than human,’ these kinds of things are inevitable. So it’s time that we do some systemic changes."
Outside the CMPD office, protesters chanted the names of black men in Charlotte killed by police - including Keith Lamont Scott and Jonathan Ferrell. The crowd maxed out around 250 people after about 90 minutes. Organizers of the protest gave speeches, and some protesters got in the face of officers and yelled at them. A handful of officers retreated into the building. But others drove their police vehicles slowly through the crowd, hoping to disperse it as people banged on their windows.
Eventually, police had enough.
They fired tear gas.
"I couldn’t make out what it was. I saw a bunch of smoke coming," said a woman named Elizabeth, who was sent running by the tear gas."People have been throwing ... both sides have been throwing shit. I think some of them have been like Molotov cocktails, ‘cause some stuff has caught on fire."
After two and a half hours, police in riot gear formed a line outside the Metro Division police station. They began pushing outward and fired more tear gas, declaring the gathering "an unlawful assembly" and told people to leave. The crowd started to dwindle.
Our Civil Emergency Unit has been deployed and declared the gathering an unlawful assembly. A dispersal order has been issued to protect lives and property.— CMPD News (@CMPD) May 30, 2020
Within a half hour, a line of more than 40 police began marching down Beatties Ford, closing it to protesters, who then moved back or departed.
Among those arrested and charged with failure to disperse was City Council member Braxton Winston, CMPD confirmed. Winston first gained attention for his visibility during 2016 protests over the killing of Keith Lamont Scott by a police officer.
By 1:40 a.m., Winston tweeted that he was "home safe."
I am home safe. Thank you all for your support. There are a lot of people that are still in the process. There is a lot of work to do.— Braxton Winston (@BraxtonWinston) May 30, 2020
In all, police said 15 people were arrested and charged with failing to disperse. Kristie Puckett, Statewide Campaign for Smart Justice Manager for the ACLU of North Carolina, was among those listed as arrested.
Later in the evening, officers were called to a Food Lion at 2123 Beatties Ford Rd., where they found protesters had broken windows and stolen merchandise. While there, a gun was fired by one of the protesters, and police said they "de-escalated the encounter throught less-lethal meansde-escalated the encounter throught less-lethal means."
CMPD said that three officers sustained minor injuries during the night, and two of the three have been treated and released. In addition to the damage done to the Metro Division office, a police bicycle and multiple police vehicles were damaged.
While the killing of Floyd in Minneapolis was the catalyst for this protest, many people who came had stories of their own. Like Von Cooper of Charlotte. She came for her great-great grandfather, who she says was murdered in South Carolina in 1926. Cooper says the white men accused were never convicted for the crime. She doesn’t think enough has changed.
"That was 1926. It is 2020 and we’re still dealing with this same thing," Cooper said. "We’re tired of it. Because there is black-on-black crime, that does not mean we are justified in being shot and killed before we are allowed our due process. But we have a long way to go in the systematic environments that have been driven by institutionalized racism."
Others here said they came because they believe they were racially profiled by police officers during traffic stops. They say they feel unsafe in their cars, and out in public. The killings of black men like Floyd add to that fear.
-- Jodie Valade contributed to this story