Last month a superior court judge signed an order halting the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department’s use of riot control agents like tear gas against peaceful protesters. That was a response to a lawsuit filed by groups including the local chapter of the NAACP, the ACLU of North Carolina and Charlotte Uprising. Thursday they argued the order should continue to be in place, CMPD disagreed.
Only 25 people were allowed in the courtroom while Superior Court Judge George Bell heard arguments as to whether a restraining order against CMPD should remain. That included numerous attorneys who argued people were peacefully protesting in uptown on June 2 in the wake of George Floyd’s death, when police boxed protesters in with tear gas and pepper balls.
One of those attorneys was Alex Heroy. A compilation of videos from people on the ground that night played in court depicting the chaos and fear protesters felt as they searched for an exit amongst the tear gas. Audio from police traffic radio was also played. Heroy and attorney Lauren Newton said loud flash bangs are heard on audio before orders to disperse.
"You hear the explosions and then the dispersal order. And that is what is so flagrant, there are a lot of things flagrant but that’s probably the most flagrant is that they now claim they gave it ahead of time but they didn’t," Heroy said. "We heard it from their own audio they submitted...as Lauren said it’s shoot first and then give the dispersal order."
Jessica Battle who represented CMPD said context was important. She pointed out this was fifth day of protesting in the city. That night, there were several unlawful acts occurring she said, including impeding traffic and a rock thrown that struck an officer.
"Second, you have assaults on officers by pointing lasers in the their eyes. That is a crime in North Carolina," Battle said. "And third, we have injury to personal property by way of injuring vehicles. So yes, is that event unlawful? It is."
She acknowledged there were many peaceful protesters but that "a few bad apples can spoil the bunch."
After a nearly four hour long hearing that included the courthouse being evacuated when an alarm went off, Judge Bell said he needed to take the issue under advisement which will likely be a couple of weeks. Until then, the restrictions on CMPD remain in place.