Protesters Said Charlotte Police Trapped Them. A State Report Claims They Had “Clear” Ways to Escape.

In this May file photo, demonstrators marched in Charlotte after George Floyd's death in Minneapolis. (Photo by Grant Baldwin for Cardinal & PIne)

By patmoran

June 22, 2020

Multiple state lawmakers slammed city police for their handling of the June 2 clash in uptown Charlotte.

A new State Bureau of Investigation report says Charlotte police did not trap protesters during a June 2 incident in uptown Charlotte, despite the claims of many demonstrators present that night. 

The clash between police officers in riot gear and protestors had been captured on video (around the 1 hour, 44 minute mark) and live-streamed by Queen City Nerve, an alternative newspaper.

Demonstrators said the video shows Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department officers trapping a group of protesters between two parking garages, and then firing tear gas and pepper balls on them from overhead positions, a practice forbidden by the police department’s protocol.

After noting that no body camera footage of the incident was available — because Civil Emergency Units are unable to mount the cameras on their uniforms — the SBI report states that video of the clash from multiple sources shows “two clear areas behind the protesters for escape.”

RELATED: State Senator: Charlotte Police At Fault in Clash With Protesters

“Smoke was observed in both avenues of escape, but no officers are seen blocking protesters for either option,” the review said. “Smoke” in the review refers to banks of tear gas.

The bureau’s findings have been criticized by eyewitnesses of the incident, who say the only avenue of escape was to force a parking garage gate open and run into the structure. Police then followed protestors into the garage, witnesses alleged. 

As previously reported by Cardinal & Pine, State Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Mecklenburg County Democrat, released his own review of the June 2 “kettling” incident prior to the SBI’s report. Jackson condemned CMPD’s tactics and use of riot control agents.

“The use of tear gas, essentially boxing in the protesters, was wrong,” Jackson wrote, adding that trapping protestors served no tactical purpose, particularly if the intent was to disperse the crowd. “Doing so demonstrates a willingness to induce fear and panic for its own sake,” he added.

The SBI report also claims that only one police officer fired six pepper balls from above, striking a parking garage wall. However, both Jackson and the alt-weekly Queen City Nerve published photos that purportedly show more pepper ball hits on the wall.

“CMPD policy is to shoot at the ground,” Jackson wrote. “It is clear that [police] were not firing at the ground but at the protesters and that at least one officer fired a shot at eye-level and struck a protester in the face.” 

In the wake of incident, more than 50 complaints were filed against the department, resulting in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.

In response to the suit, A North Carolina Superior Court judge granted a temporary restraining order barring CMPD  from using force against demonstrators for 10 days. 

A CMPD statement released on Friday read, “The order does not…prevent the department from deploying riot control agents in gatherings that involve protesters who are damaging the property of others.” 

As Cardinal & Pine reported, The Charlotte City Council responded to public outcry over the incident by voting on June 8 to remove funding for the current supply and future purchases of chemical agents such as tear gas and pepper balls used for crowd dispersal. 

One week after the council’s decision U.S. Representative Alma Adams, a Democrat from Mecklenburg County, introduced The Right to PROTEST Act, which would criminalize the use of tear gas and other riot control agents nationwide.

“The right to protest police misconduct is under threat from police misconduct itself,” Adam said in a video this month.


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