Third night of protests in Charlotte
After two nights of furious street violence, demonstrators took to the streets of uptown Charlotte again Thursday night and early Friday with passionate but mostly peaceful protests.
Only one notable confrontation with police occurred after hundreds of marchers briefly blocked the John Belk Freeway.
About 10:30 p.m., protesters passed Bank of America Stadium and began climbing up to Interstate 277.
Police blocked traffic on the highway, then a phalanx of officers in riot gear moved in to drive demonstrators off the highway.
Someone hurled a bottle in the direction of the police line and officers responded with tear gas, and demonstrators withdrew.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg police tweeted after midnight that two officers were treated by Medic after being sprayed with a chemical agent by demonstrators.
Otherwise, it was an orderly night as hundreds marched through the business and government districts holding signs and chanting.
A midnight curfew announced Thursday evening by Mayor Jennifer Roberts went unheeded and unenforced early Friday.
Helmeted N.C. National Guard soldiers, including MPs, took up positions throughout uptown with armored Humvees after darkness fell. Police and media helicopters fluttered over uptown like dragonflies.
Authorities said Guardsmen were brought in to protect against damage to buildings and property, freeing police to concentrate on anyone engaging in violence.
Early in the evening, veteran protesters held a tactical training seminar for demonstrators at Romare Bearden Park. First tip given: Don’t panic, run or shove.
Then, as darkness fell, faith leaders gathered near the Epicenter praying for peace and for the family of Keith Lamont Scott, shot to death in an encounter with police on Tuesday.
“Confrontation breeds confrontation,” said Myron Barnes, an elder of the Temple of Refuge on Wilann Drive in Charlotte. “We need to remain as calm as possible.”
Barnes said he came to uptown to act as a calming influence between protesters and police. “If I can be here to deter something, then I’ve done my job.”
He was one of many self-appointed intermediaries walking the streets Thursday night working – and succeeding – at keeping tensions in check.
Value of a human life
Khalil Wallace, 18, of Charlotte was in town when rioting occurred Wednesday and came back Thursday night with friends, expecting protests to be peaceful.
“I came tonight to support Black Lives Matter,” he said. “There are too many black people getting killed.”
About 100 people milled around EpiCenter quietly during the religious gathering, some with bandanas on their faces.
“A human life cannot be replaced,” said Jibril Hough, a prominent Muslim activist from Charlotte.
“One human life is worth all these shiny buildings in this city. We must make the police accountable for what they’re doing. We need to change the rules of engagement.”
Police were low-key in their response as long as the protests remained calm.
Officers on bikes used the tactics practiced during demonstrations during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in 2012, clearing the way and blocking traffic on side streets on Trade Street as protesters moved along chanting “No Justice, No Peace,” “Black Lives Matter” and “Who’s Streets? Our Streets!”
Others called for the release of police videos in Scott’s death. “We Want the Tape!” they chanted.
Media an unpopular target
About 50 officers in riot gear marched down South Tryon Street about 8:30 p.m., with protesters and a sizable media scrum following in their wake.
One part of the crowd taunted police at Trade Street, while another group nearby shouted, “Get the media out of here.”
Charlotte’s disorder had been the top story on cable and national network news beginning Wednesday night, and reporters from as far away as London were covering the story.
When protesters reached Charlotte Mecklenburg Police headquarters on Trade Street, they began chanting “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” with their arms in the air.
Then they moved to the Mecklenburg County Jail. Inmates could be seen at the windows and lights blinked within, bringing cheers from the crowd.
Attempt at dialogue
Nearby, Garry McFadden – a famed homicide detective who now works for Charlotte Mecklenburg Police in community relations – faced a small group of protesters, some with faces covered, who demanded the shooting videos and interrupted him repeatedly when he tried to answer.
"Whenever you finish marching, whenever you finish bull-horning, let us sit down and find out what your needs are,” McFadden said. “Is my face covered? I’m not hiding. You said ‘Where are the good cops?’ If a good cop comes forward will you respect him?”