Local and state activists called Monday for Police Chief Kerr Putney and Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts to resign, as the city’s latest round of tension between police and the black community moves into its second week.
At a Monday news conference held by Charlotte Uprising, a coalition that emerged during last week’s protests, speakers said both officials have failed to protect the city’s African American and working class citizens and withheld information about two fatal shootings last week.
Bree Newsome, a Charlotte organizer who rose to national fame when she removed the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse in 2015, says the Sept. 20 shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer was the latest in “an established pattern of cover-up and misconduct on the part of CMPD.” Scott was African American, as was Justin Carr, who was fatally shot during a protest in uptown Charlotte the next night.
The governor has called in the National Guard to protect the windows at Bank of America, but we ask who is being called in to protect the people of Charlotte and North Carolina?
Charlotte Uprising activist Bree Newsome
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“This moment represents a tipping point for a community that has had its trust repeatedly broken by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department,” Newsome said.
Jose Mujica, a student and organizer, accused police of shooting Carr and framing another black man. The shooting occurred after an angry crowd surrounded police clad in riot gear, who fired tear gas and possibly other projectiles. Mujica, who was near the shooting, acknowledged that the scene was chaotic and he did not actually see any officer fire at Carr, but said many participants believe the shot came from the police.
Local ministers who were also near the shooting have said it was impossible to tell who fired the shot, while one eyewitness has said he saw another black man in the crowd fire the shot. On Friday police charged 21-year-old Rayquan Borum with murder in Carr’s death.
Uprising speakers and the local ministers agreed that the appearance of police in riot gear escalated tension just before the shooting.
This is a call to action to our family across the Carolinas to get involved.
Cherrell Brown of Greensboro’s Beloved Community Center
The Uprising coalition called for a full investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, saying the state has been compromised by legislation that will limit release of police bodycam videos, by efforts to limit voting rights and by Gov. Pat McCrory’s comments comparing the shooting videos to watching football replays.
“We feel the situation in Charlotte and in North Carolina represents a crisis of injustice and we urge the Department of Justice to intervene immediately,” Newsome said. “The governor has called in the National Guard to protect the windows at Bank of America, but we ask who is being called in to protect the people of Charlotte and North Carolina?”
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg and North Carolina NAACP branches also issued a call for a federal investigation Monday, as well as “an end to the immoral acts of racial profiling, excessive force and the systematic killing of African Americans and people of color by law enforcement.”
Tamika Lewis, another member of the Uprising coalition, read a list of demands that includes firing and criminally charging all officers involved in Scott’s shooting and dropping charges against everyone arrested during protests. Mujica highlighted looting charges that have been filed against 23-year-old Jamil Gill, known on social media as Mills Shaka Zulu Gill. Mujica says the charges are false and were filed after Gill did widely-viewed livestreaming from the front lines of the first two nights of protest.
I guess they think I’m stupid enough to risk my life for some chips.
Protester Jamil Gill, who has been charged with looting a Jimmy John’s
Mujica said Gill, who describes himself on his Facebook page as a Mallard Creek High graduate who studied at UNC Charlotte, was one of the first leaders of Charlotte Uprising. He said Gill is now in hiding.
“CMPD is currently hunting him to make an example of those who dare show the truth,” Mujica said.
On Monday afternoon the police department posted on Facebook that Gill was arrested in Greensboro and faces three counts of assault with a deadly weapon for striking officers with his car on I-85 and additional charges related to looting at Jimmy John’s. Gill had posted earlier that he planned to turn himself in even though the charges are false: “I guess they think I’m stupid enough to risk my life for some chips.”
Cherrell Brown of the Beloved Community Center, a social justice group in Greensboro, said she has been in Charlotte supporting local groups. She noted that police violence against African Americans is part of a statewide and national pattern: “What is happening here is not an isolated event. This is a call to action to our family across the Carolinas to get involved.”
“We will continue to strategize, to organize and to mobilize across the state in our campuses, in our churches, in the hoods,” Brown said.
Speakers said Uprising does not plan to organize street protests this week, but will be on hand to provide legal and medical support for those who do turn out.
The NAACP and the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice plan a “unity rally for justice and transparency” at 6:30 p.m. Monday. Because of rain the location was changed from Marshall Park to Little Rock AME Zion Church, 401 N. McDowell St.