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Charlotte Demonstrators Defy Curfew; Protests Largely Peaceful

Charlotte Protests Over Police Killing Mostly Peaceful on Third Night
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Charlotte Protests Over Police Killing Mostly Peaceful on Third Night

A third night of demonstrations in Charlotte, North Carolina over the controversial police shooting of an African American man were largely peaceful.

Hundreds of demonstrators defied a midnight curfew, marching without incident in the early hours of Friday morning. Authorities said didn't plan to enforce the curfew as long as the protests remained peaceful.

Television video showed some protesters shaking hands with smiling National Guard personnel in the early morning darkness.

Thursday night, large crowds of demonstrators marched through the heart of Charlotte - the state's largest city. Tear gas was used against demonstrators at one location, but such incidents were rare.

Police in riot gear were dispersed throughout the city.

Police monitor demonstrators in Charlotte on the third night of protests. (E. Sarai/VOA)
Police monitor demonstrators in Charlotte on the third night of protests. (E. Sarai/VOA)

State of emergency declared

Governor Pat McCrory, a former mayor of Charlotte, had earlier declared a state of emergency, and he said police would arrest lawbreakers. "We cannot tolerate any type of violence ... or destruction of property," McCrory said.

People from all around the state of North Carolina came to join the protests in Charlotte. Cherrell Brown, a Black Lives Matter activist and community organizer who goes by "Carolina Bama" on Twitter drove from nearby Greensboro in solidarity with Charlotte and the African-American community.

"This isn't new," she told VOA, referring to the protests in Charlotte and the Black Lives Matter movement in general. "This is an iteration of a movement that's been going on for 500 years - since the slaves got off the boat."

Many clergy were present at the rallies, urging calm and peace for all present. But other protesters were seen arguing with preachers, claiming they didn't understand the pain Charlotte residents had suffered and that they could not be expected to stay calm.

Protesters in Charlotte begin their march on Thursday evening.
Protesters in Charlotte begin their march on Thursday evening.

Protester shot Wednesday dies

A young protester who was shot a day earlier died Thursday. Justin Carr, 26, had been struck by a bullet as he stood outside a hotel in the neighborhood where the disorders took place. Police said they did not fire the fatal shot.

Carr was shot Wednesday after protesters clashed with police in riot gear and the demonstration turned violent. Officers fired tear gas to disperse the crowds; some people smashed store windows and set small fires in the streets.

Carr's death was the first fatality recorded since the incident at the center of this week's demonstration - the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott as he got out of his car Tuesday. More than 30 people have been injured in the protests this week.

A man squats near a pool of blood where a man was injured Wednesday during protests in Charlotte, N.C.
A man squats near a pool of blood where a man was injured Wednesday during protests in Charlotte, N.C.

Photo may show gun at scene of Scott shooting

Police said Scott was holding a gun when they shot him. His family said Scott was unarmed and that he may have been simply carrying a book he was reading. Police said they found no book at the scene. A photo taken from some distance appears to show a gun on the ground not far from the car. It was not clear whose gun it was.

Police said officers were looking for someone else when they saw Scott get out of a car with a gun, and that the officer fired after Scott ignored warnings to drop the weapon.

Video reportedly unclear

Police refused to release to the public any video recordings of the shooting, but they screened the images Thursday for family members, who said it was unclear what, if anything, was in Scott's hands when police fired at him.

Comments by Charlotte's police chief also indicated it was difficult to establish exactly what happened from the video police recorded, since it came from a camera in a police cruiser some distance from the confrontation between Scott and the officers who stopped him.

Attorney Justin Bamber, representing the Scott family, told reporters Thursday evening that the family wants the video released to the public immediately. The city's police chief, Kerr Putney, said earlier that he would not release the recording unless he believes there is a "compelling reason" to do so.

The North Carolina branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also has called for the swift release of any and all footage related to Tuesday's shooting.

In a statement, executive director Karen Anderson said, “In the interest of transparency and accountability, and particularly in light of conflicting accounts about the shooting, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department should quickly release any and all footage it has of the events leading up to the shooting, as well as the shooting itself."

Corine Mack, president of the NAACP’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg branch, said the release of the video would bring transparency to the investigation of Scott’s killing.

“It really doesn’t matter if he had a gun,” Mack said. “Showing he had a gun doesn’t prove he was guilty of anything.” It is legal to openly carry guns in North Carolina.

The U.S. Justice Department is sending a group of trained peacekeepers to Charlotte to help resolve any conflicts. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the chief U.S. law-enforcement officer, urged citizens Thursday to choose a path of reconciliation.

"Too many times we’ve allowed ourselves to be pulled down the easy path of blame and accusation rather than the harder path of empathy and understanding. Let us choose that path," Lynch told reporters.

VOA's Arash Arabasadi and Smita Nordwall contributed to this report.