National Guard soldiers rolled into Charlotte early Thursday after North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) declared a state of emergency there during a second night of rage in the streets after local police shot and killed a black man Tuesday.
Protesters and police clashed at length and in large numbers Wednesday night in the heart of Charlotte, marking an acceleration from Tuesday night’s smaller conflicts in the north end of the city, closer to where police killed Keith Scott earlier this week.
Riot police sought to clear protesters, looters, and newsmedia alike from the downtown area. At one point, officers moved inside the lobby of the Omni Hotel and fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters. Moments later, a man in the crowd had been shot. The wounded man was initially reported killed, but the city later indicated he was on life support and in critical condition.
Police said the man was shot by another civilian, not an officer. Witnesses in the crowd disagree, including Minister Steve Knight who says he and other clergy were standing about 10 feet away. “The victim was shot while he stood between two ministers, and we believe he was shot by police,” Knight said in a press release.
A fellow marcher named James Tyson reportedly provided first aid to the man.
“Tyson said the protest had been tense but not violent up to that point,” the Washington Post reports. “I heard no gunshot and I did not see any protesters with guns. I’m almost positive it was a rubber bullet [fired by police],” Tyson told the paper.
As demonstrators unfurled from the hotel following the shooting, some smashed windows and reportedly looted a handful of businesses.
Protesters numbered in the hundreds, according to the Charlotte Observer. Some businesses in the city center are staying closed and keeping workers at home on Thursday.
“I understand concerns and I understand frustration and anger but I never will respect violence,” McCrory said on Wednesday. “Violence is unacceptable and we’ve gotta get that word out. Violence of throwing things at our police officers, violence of breaking windows. Violence only causes more chaos and violence does not seek a solution.”
Police have thus far declined to release videos that might corroborate their version of what happened to Keith Scott on Tuesday afternoon.
Family members say Scott was waiting for his child to get off the bus back from school, reading a book, when officers serving a warrant nearby happened upon him and killed him within seconds.
Police say Scott got out of his truck holding a gun, which they say detectives recovered at the scene. They have told local news reporters that this photograph taken by a witness shows Scott’s gun near his feet.
Scott’s killing also followed hard on the heels of two other examples of cops killing black men elsewhere. Tulsa, OK, and Columbus, OH, have each seen citizens killed by their public safety officers in just the past week.
Charlotte’s unrest isn’t a re-run of what happened in Ferguson, MO, for almost a week after police killed Mike Brown in 2014, or of what happened in Baltimore last spring following Freddie Gray’s death inside a paddy-wagon. But the episodes do have important similarities with murky information from authorities, peaceful protests escalating into open conflict, and soldiers eventually hitting the streets.
The pattern of black citizens dying at police hands in complex, often unjustified circumstances is attracting attention from the two white people vying to replace President Barack Obama after his term ends.
“It’s ‘wow, here we go again,’” Donald Trump said on Fox News early Thursday. “It just seems there’s a lack of spirit between the white and the black.”
“It’s unbearable, and it needs to become intolerable,” Hillary Clinton said at a campaign rally in Florida overnight. “Every day police officers are serving with courage, honor and skill.”