A state of emergency is now in force in the US city of Charlotte where a policeman fatally shot an African American and triggered two days of unrest. North Carolina governor, Pat McCrory who made the emergency declaration said the National Guard and state Highway Patrol troopers would be sent in to help police restore and maintain order. One person was shot and gravely wounded on Wednesday in the second night of unrest in the city, officials said, as riot police dispersed unruly protesters.
Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney initially reported that a person shot during the protest had died, but city officials later posted a Twitter message saying the individual had been hospitalized in critical condition on life support. The city also said the gunshot was fired by one civilian at another, not by police. A police officer was also being treated for injuries suffered during Wednesday’s protests, it said.
Putney told Fox News: “We’re trying to disperse the crowd. We’ve been very patient, but now they’ve become very aggressive, throwing bottles and so forth, at my officers, so it’s time for us now to restore order.”
The flashpoint for Charlotte’s unrest was Tuesday’s fatal police shooting of Keith Scott, 43, who according to police was armed with a handgun and refused officers’ orders to drop the weapon. His family and a witness to the shooting said Scott was holding a book, not a firearm. Authorities have not released any video of the incident but the city’s mayor said she would view the footage on Thursday. Governor Pat McCrory said he was acting at the request of the Charlotte police chief in sending National Guard and state troopers to assist local law enforcement.
According to Reuters, the latest trouble began with a peaceful rally that turned violent after several hundred chanting demonstrators marched through downtown with brief stops at a black church, police headquarters and a large entertainment venue called the EpiCentre. As they approached downtown Charlotte’s central intersection, protesters confronted a column of patrol cars and officers in front of the Omni Charlotte Hotel and began to surround groups of police and their vehicles. Police then unleashed volleys of rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas and flash-bang grenades to disperse the protesters, who began hurling fireworks and debris at officers outside the hotel. The confrontation grew more intense as a phalanx of helmeted police carrying shields advanced down a street, pushing back a crowd of demonstrators who scurried for cover as officers fired more tear gas. Protesters smashed windows and glass doors at a nearby Hyatt hotel, whose manager told Reuters that two employees were punched. The slogan “Black Lives Matter” was spray-painted on windows.
Demonstrators were also seen looting a convenience store after smashing its windows and a shop that sells athletic wear for fans of Charlotte’s National Basketball League team, the Hornets. Others set fire to trash cans. Some protesters expressed anger at the lawlessness exhibited by fellow demonstrators. One woman was heard shouting, “Stop – that’s not what this is about,” as young men broke bottles in the street.
Earlier in the evening, Scott’s wife, Rakeyia, issued a statement describing her family as “devastated” and appealing for calm. “We have more questions than answers about Keith’s death,” the statement said. Sixteen officers were injured late on Tuesday and early Wednesday as police in riot gear clashed with demonstrators who hurled stones, set fires and briefly blocked an interstate highway.