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Third Night Of Protests In Charlotte Ends With Violence, Arrests

Sunday night marked the third night of protests in Charlotte as a wave of nationwide protests continue in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. 

Hundreds gathered outside of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. There was a range of emotions in the chants from protesters last night. Some were tense, some said they wanted a peaceful protest. 

By the end of the night, CMPD had arrested 15 protesters. Four of them were charged with assaulting an officer, three on illegal weapons charges. 

WFAE's Sarah Delia was uptown Sunday night and joins "Morning Edition" host Lisa Worf to talk about what she saw. 

Delia: I got to the CMPD headquarters around 9 p.m. and it was pretty crowded. Police officers on bikes were sort of barricading the entrance to the police station. Some protesters were chanting, others talking, some engaging with the police. I spoke  CMPD Officer Philippe, who was trying to engage in conversations with the protesters. But more importantly, listening to what they have to say.

Philippe: We get the anger and we get the frustration. I get it as a human being. I get (it) as a minority person outside of this uniform. And I understand it; I'm not blind to that and we're not blind to it as an agency. But we can still have those conversations moving forward.

Delia: He also called what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis "deplorable and despicable." And wanted people in Charlotte know there is more accountability at CMPD.

Delia: And I spoke to a Charlotte woman named Victoria who brought her children out. Two really cute kids. Her daughter is 4 years old, and she held her 8-month-old son as we talked.

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Credit Sarah Delia / WFAE
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WFAE
Victoria and her family.

Victoria: This is for him, all these people out here. I just want everybody's voice to be heard. A lot of times people just think people are coming out here to mess things up, or you know, just some fun. But it's honestly a lot behind it. And I just want to be here. I'm not nervous. I mean, as long as it stays, you know, how it is. Once it gets crazy, it's time for them to go in, but I'm willing to stick it out.

Worf: What other scene struck you last night?

Delia: There was a guy who was carrying a large American flag that stirred up a lot of conversation. The flag was upside-down, which is a universal symbol for distress but a lot of people didn't realize that and were clearly bothered. It appeared a fight was even going to happen. Fortunately, before that escalated, more people stepped in to explain. He was making a statement with the upside-down flag.

Some people burned sage in the air. Others handed out water and snacks. One woman I spoke to said because she's white, she needed to show up for this protest.

Protester: I just recognize my privilege as a white person. I'm just here in solidarity to support everyone because I think it's absolutely ridiculous the way people are treated in this country and it's got to change.

Worf: From what you described already, things were pretty peaceful. When did that change, though?

Delia: There were definitely some tense moments outside of CMPD, but really the night started to feel different as the group headed farther into uptown. We walked up to the Omni Hotel, which is where in 2016 when protests broke out after the police shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.  Justin Carr, a 26-year-old man, was shot and killed.

WFAE's Michael Falero and I were by the Omni when someone in the crowd lit what appeared to be a firework. Then we saw officers in riot gear. A couple of water bottles were thrown at the police. Then the tear gas came. People started to run. I got pushed in the process as there was a sort of stampede of people. Folks were really afraid of the tear gas catching up to them. There was also a call to disperse from CMPD. Here's a little bit of that audio to give you a sense of what it was like. You'll hear me running first and then you'll hear what I believe are flashbangs.

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Credit Michael Falero / WFAE
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WFAE
Protesters near the Omni Hotel in Charlotte.

Delia: At the end of that audio, that's both Michael and I coughing from the tear gas.  There were a couple of women who were next to us. One of them was saying she needed water. Someone asked if anyone needed first aid. At that point, it felt too dangerous to stay out and we made the call to head back to our cars. 

I'll be honest with you, Lisa, trying to outrun tear gas was scary. Plus, the warm weather last night, both Michael and I were wearing masks which kept us safe to a certain extent from the tear gas. But it also made it really difficult to keep it on in the warm weather and while running, at times.

Worf: That's WFAE's Sarah Delia. She, along with WFAE reporter Michael Falero, were out covering last night's protests in uptown Charlotte.

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