In wake of the police shooting of Keith Scott a third night of protests went more smoothly as National Guard members helped Charlotte police maintain control.
Hundreds of protesters marched a lot, hours in fact, in several irregular laps of uptown Charlotte, chanting the slogans that are getting all too familiar at similar protests around the country.
In part they kept moving because that’s what police and some of their unofficial leaders, like public defender Toussaint Romain, kept urging them to do every time they stopped and seemed on the verge of trouble. It mostly worked.
"Our governor declared a state of emergency and he might be wasting some taxpayer dollars as you can look out here and don’t see that emergency. I’m here doing my part and these folks are out here doing what they’re supposed to, what they’re allowed to for their constitutional rights and I have to be happy with that. I have to have hope that we’re going to make it better tomorrow," said Toussaint Romain.
With that, he turned and trotted away. Romain had just noticed that a mass of protesters had mounted the stairs of the city hall and wanted to make sure they didn’t get out of control.
They didn’t then. But later, the crowd did briefly flow onto Interstate 277 and blocked both sides. Police in riot gear, though, formed into tight lines and forced them off, and then away from the highway, firing pellets that released a stinging chemical.
But the scenes that dominated the evening were different. Protestors talking calmly with police, shaking hands with sheriff’s deputies and hugging members of the National Guard who were guarding several buildings along the path of the march.
One marcher stopped Police Captain Mike Campagna, talked with him awhile and handed him a flower. As he put it on his chest, others pelted him with questions.
"So there’s a lot of people inside the crowd that are helping us. There’s a lot of people in there that are mediating disputes and helping get crowds moving and that’s been huge. I can’t do it all," Captain Mike Campagna said.
It was crucial, he said, for the protestors to keep marching. That would keep them out of trouble.
One focal point was the Omni Hotel, near where protestor Justin Carr had been shot the night before. He died in the hospital Thursday.
Just before the march started Thursday night, graduate student Joshua Gaither walked up to National Guard soldiers. Their Humvee was blocking access to the hotel’s parking deck.
"Well, I walked up to him and said hey, I appreciate you guys being out here, and make sure you keep us safe tonight. Cause they’re people," said Gaither.
Gaither had been arrested Wednesday night for failure to disperse. He was showing around a videotape of the arrest on his phone. He said the police had been far too aggressive, coming after him without giving him time to move.
Another marcher was unhappy about another police decision, not to release videotape of Scott’s shooting.
"Release the video, sign the petition, please sign the petition. That is the most important thing right now," said Amanda Medina. "It’s important to release the video just so we can get an understanding of exactly what happened. Because there’s lot of confusion over whether he had a book or a gun."
Several protesters said they planned to come back for a fourth night. Romain said if they did, he’d be back too.