Charlotte City Council declared a state of emergency Saturday for the city and Mecklenburg County after protests over police brutality sparked by the killing of a black man named George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer turned violent in Charlotte on Friday evening.
"As a part of all of these actions we’ve taken today, thinking about last night, and making sure people have the right to express their frustration and anger, and to do it in a way that respects the public safety of our city and our neighborhoods, we have declared a state of emergency that we hope that we don’t have to use but allows us to call on the state for resources and needs that we may have as things continue," Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said in a Saturday press conference. "We want people to protest safetly and we want people to be heard."
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said three officers sustained minor injuries Friday evening as about 250 people gathered outside the Beatties Ford Road precinct in west Charlotte. Windows on the building were broken, one police bicycle and numerous police vehicles were damaged, according to police.
Tear gas was used to disperse the crowd, and 15 people were arrested and charged with failure to disperse – including Charlotte City Council member Braxton Winston.
The state of emergency for civil unrest is the second state of emergency the city of Charlotte currently is under; the city and the state currently also are under a state of emergency for the coronavirus outbreak.
It is primarily an administrative maneuver, and no curfew has been issued, Lyles said.
A curfew HAS NOT been enacted at this time. The proclamation grants the city and county managers the authority to enact a curfew if necessary. If a curfew is enacted, it will be announced in advance to allow residents to prepare.
— City of Charlotte (@CLTgov) May 30, 2020
"The mechanism is there for our city leadership to ramp up or ramp down the restrictions as needed, depending on the situation on the ground," said Robert Graham, Deputy Director of Emergency Management. "I wouldn’t get too sideways about the state of emergency. That is an administration action that we would do for a lot of different things."
Lyles went on to say that she welcomes peaceful protests in Charlotte -- but worries that social distancing from the coronavirus pandemic has led to misunderstandings and short fuses.
"We want protests to be heard, we want it to be safely, we want to do it in a way that protects our residents our neighborhoods and our communities," Lyles said. "I say that because for the last eight weeks we’ve been sitting and establishing social distancing, and we’ve been apart for a very long time. And I know as a mom and a grandmom that is not always the best thing that happens. Loneliness can sometimes create things that are difficult for us and we want to do something."
People also gathered outside CMPD headquarters on Saturday afternoon, holding signs and chanting. While no protests are known to be scheduled for Saturday evening, one is scheduled for Sunday afternoon in uptown Charlotte.
"None of us can predict what the next few hours will bring," Lyles said, "but we can all pray and hope that they bring protests in a way that we can hold our heads up high and respect each other and treat each other well."
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