Protesters confront Charlotte officers during a demonstration in May. (Photo for Cardinal & Pine by Grant Baldwin). Charlotte Police Violence
Protesters confront Charlotte officers during a demonstration in May. (Photo for Cardinal & Pine by Grant Baldwin).

Charlotte City Council to talk police funding after video appears to show officers deploying tear gas on cornered protesters.

In the wake of public outcry over an alleged police ambush of peaceful protesters, the Charlotte City Council will meet Monday to vote on a city budget that includes funding for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department.

Justin LaFrancois, publisher of alternative newspaper Queen City Nerve, was livestreaming a Black Lives Matter demonstration June 2 when two converging lines of Civil Emergency Unit (CEU) officers in riot gear deployed tear gas, pepper balls and flash bangs. LaFrancois’ video shows other CEU officers firing pepper balls into the encircled crowd, which appeared to be trapped, from the second floor of a parking garage.

“They’ve thrown out tear gas, flashbangs, smoke,” LaFrancois says in the video. “We’re trapped here.”

The following day, Charlotte City Council members, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney and other city leaders met in a closed session to discuss the incident and craft a response, The Charlotte Observer reported. Putney refused to release the name of the police commander who authorized the use of chemical agents against unarmed civilians.

Charlotte city council member Tariq Bokhari, a Republican, claimed that video shot from other angles showed a different version of the events than the one told by LaFrancois and multiple protestors and eyewitnesses. On Thursday, Bokhari posted a letter he sent to CMPD on Twitter.

“Thanks for using chemical munitions once things turned unlawful,” Bokhari wrote.

In a virtual press conference on Friday, Putney said the department will not discontinue the use of tear gas and pepper balls, just as the North Carolina Democratic party issued a statement against the use of chemical agents. The ACLU of NC also  released a letter condemning violence by CMPD against protestors and warned against further use of tear gas, flash bangs, rubber bullets, and other weapons.

City Council member Braxton Winston, a Democrat who was arrested during Charlotte’s first night of protests on May 29, launched a campaign on Friday to prevent the city from funding chemical agents. Since there appears to be no a specific budgetary line item for the weapons, Winston said he will introduce an amendment at the city’s budget meeting Monday to create an oversight committee that will scrutinize police spending and policy.

Charlotte City Councilman Braxton Winston
(Photo via Winston’s Facebook page)

Democratic city council member Larkin Eggleston vowed via Twitter on Friday to bring a measure before the council to adopt the #8Can’tWait campaign that outlines policies to de-escalate police violence. Of the policies, CMPD already bans the use of chokeholds, and have just adopted a requirement for officers to stop excessive violence perpetrated by other officers.

The City Council meets to vote on the 2020-21 budget tonight at 5 p.m.