Roundup: After Police Clash With Demonstrators, Charlotte Cuts Tear Gas Funding

City Councilman Braxton Winston makes his first public appearance in late May after being arrested the previous night during a protest. (Photo for Cardinal & Pine by Grant Baldwin).

By patmoran

June 10, 2020

Plus: Bar bill veto to get override vote. And Gov. Cooper orders Alamance County racetrack closed.

On a 6 to 2 vote, split along party lines, the Charlotte City Council on Monday prohibited police spending on chemical agents after a series of clashes between law enforcement and protesters..

In Fiscal Year 2020, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department spent $103,000 on chemical agents. In the past, more than 40% of the city’s budget has been earmarked for police spending.

Councilman Winston Braxton called for a motion cutting funds for new or existing chemical agents used in crowd control and dispersal after video surfaced of CMPD officers in riot gear cornering a crowd of protestors on June 2 and bombarding them with tear gas and pepper balls.

Winston’s motion also called for the establishment of a standing committee composed of council members and the city manager with the power to scrutinize and adjust police spending and policy.

“This is what democracy looks like,” Winston said. “The people of Charlotte will be pushing forward with new models to keep our communities safe. We are not looking backwards. Our eye is on the horizon.”

The two dissenting votes came from the only Republicans on the council, council members Ed Driggs and Tariq Bokhari. Driggs called the motion hasty and questioned Winston’s motivations for pushing it. Winston was arrested during the city’s first protest on May 29. In 2016, before he became a council member, Winston was arrested for taking part in a demonstration protesting the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.

Despite pledging to try to understand injustices suffered by African Americans, and reading part of a letter from over 450 police spouses and family members calling for reconciliation and understanding, Bokhari called the motion pandering, and urged the council to deal with underlying systemic issues.

“This city does not want rash actions without impact,” Bokhari said.

Winston urged activists and allies to continue to press their government for changes in police policy.

“The only way that your elected representatives on this dais will keep the political will to continue down the path of transformative change is that you keep the pressure on,” he said.

Bar bill veto could get an override vote

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill last Friday that would have been an end run around the state’s Phase Two reopening restrictions, allowing stand-alone bars to open while increasing restaurants’ capacity. In a statement, Cooper said that House Bill 536 would hamper the ability of state leaders to respond to COVID-19.

But on Tuesday, NC Insider Editor Colin Campbell Tweeted that a veto override vote was expected Wednesday. The original bill passed in the House 65-53 and in the Senate 42-5.

But Mitch Kokai, senior analyst with the conservative John Locke Foundation, said success of an override is unlikely, The Winston-Salem Journal reported on June 6

“They are unlikely to be forced to choose between a bill they support and a Democratic Party establishment that could make their lives miserable,” Kokai said.

Image via N.C. DPS.

Gov. Cooper orders Alamance County speedway closed

Gov. Roy Cooper has ordered the immediate shutdown of Ace Speedway on Monday, after the Alamance County racetrack violated his executive order against mass gatherings for the second weekend in a row.

Ace Speedway held its first race Memorial Day weekend, where people packed the bleachers, many without face masks. Cooper called the event a reckless decision.

The track responded on June 6 by drawing more than 2,000 spectators to a protest event, Fox8 News reported. Signs outside the speedway said: “This Event is held in Peaceful Protest of Injustice and Inequality Everywhere.” 

Under Phase Two of the governor’s plan to reopen the state’s economy, crowds of more than 25 people are allowed for weddings and other events where participants are exercising their 1st Amendment rights.

On Friday, Cooper’s office sent a letter to Alamance County officials urging them to prevent the racetrack from hosting future events that violate Phase Two.

Then on Monday night, Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen issued an order closing the venue immediately, declaring it an imminent hazard. Once the track presents a plan adhering to state guidelines, which is also approved by the Department of Health and Human Services, the track can reopen, The Raleigh News & Observer reports.


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