Protests In Charlotte, N.C., Continue For A Third Night

Sep 23, 2016
Originally published on September 23, 2016 8:30 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

A curfew in Charlotte, N.C., ended at 6 this morning but will resume again tonight at midnight. The city has been torn by protests over the death of an African-American man, Keith Scott, shot by the police on Tuesday. Last night's march was more peaceful than the night before when protesters smashed the windows of downtown businesses. And another man was shot and later died. NPR's Greg Allen joins us from Charlotte. And, Greg, there were no injuries to police or protesters last night, I gather, which is good, but there was a skirmish when protesters briefly shut down an interstate.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: That's right, Renee. Interstate 277 runs through downtown Charlotte. Protesters got out onto the highway at one point. Police in riot gear were there and reacted very quickly. They used tear gas or some other chemical agents to clear them from the area. In all, it was a much more peaceful crowd than the previous night. We had several hundred at one point. They were stopping at city buildings, including the city jail, and that was an interesting scene where they stopped and tried to get the attention of prisoners by making some noise. Here's a little bit of that scene.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

ALLEN: Prisoners inside reacted. They started banging on their windows and flashing their lights, which really gratified, I think, the protesters.

MONTAGNE: Well, one big difference from Wednesday night's protest was the amount of law enforcement that was deployed last night. How did they deal with the protesters?

ALLEN: Well, the governor sent in the National Guard after declaring a state of emergency. They mostly protected businesses downtown to protect windows from being smashed as happened on the previous night. There were many more Charlotte police officers on the street, and they did most of the heavy lifting in terms of working with protesters. They mostly just kind of held back traffic, let them do their march through the streets. There was only that one skirmish on the interstate. But even so, I think many of the protesters weren't happy with the big show of force last night. Here's Charlotte resident Patrice Bagby.

PATRICE BAGBY: I just think it's kind of excessive that they're even out here. I mean, everything's been - clearly as you see, we're pretty peaceful. So I don't see any need for any type of National Guard or anything like that.

MONTAGNE: And yesterday, Keith Scott's family members were allowed by police to see the dashboard and body camera videos of the shooting that the police have.

ALLEN: And interestingly, as the police chief and a lawyer for the family have both said, those videos are not conclusive. Police sources say that Scott had a gun. There's been a picture released of what they say might be that gun. The family has disputed all that. Here's what the family's lawyer, Justin Bamberg, had to say.

JUSTIN BAMBERG: My understanding, based in talking with this family, is that he did not own a gun, that he did not habitually carry a gun. And as far as we know, we still don't know if there was or was not a gun even there.

ALLEN: Bamberg and Keith Scott's family saw the video yesterday. After watching the video, Bamberg said it's not clear what, if anything, Scott was holding in his hands.

MONTAGNE: And, Greg, even though the family has seen that video, the police chief has says - has said he does not plan to release it to the public. Explain to us why not.

ALLEN: Well, the police chief says it's to preserve the integrity of the investigation so that when they talk to witnesses, you know, there's information they have the witnesses don't have. But that's not really satisfied people here in Charlotte and certainly not the marchers. Here's a little bit of the marchers from last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) Release the video. Release the video. Release the video.

ALLEN: North Carolina's governor recently signed a bill into law. That bill is called HB 972, and that would exempt police videos from the public records law, which means they would only be released if there was a court order. Protester Jasmine Wright says that's why it's important that the public get access to that video now.

JASMINE WRIGHT: HB 972 is about to go into effect October 1. So if we don't get that tape now, it's going to be lost forever.

ALLEN: It will really be up to authorities whether those videos are released or not. And public pressure on that is only likely to grow. So we'll see what happens in the days ahead.

MONTAGNE: Greg, thanks very much.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Greg Allen speaking to us from Charlotte. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.