Governor declares state of emergency following Charlotte unrest
A second night of race-related clashes in Charlotte, North Carolina has left one protester on life support, with the renewed violence prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency.
Several hundred people taunted riot police late Wednesday amid clashes in the city center, a second night of unrest ignited by the fatal police shooting of a black man.
Governor Pat McCrory said on Twitter that he was activating the National Guard and Highway Patrol officers to assist local law enforcement.
“We cannot tolerate violence. We cannot tolerate the destruction of property and will not tolerate the attacks towards our police officers that are occurring right now, and I feel very strongly about that,” the governor later told CNN. “That is not the American way.”
The protests were sparked by the death of Keith Lamont Scott, 43, fatally shot in an apartment complex parking lot on Tuesday after an encounter with officers searching for a suspect wanted for arrest.
A protester was critically wounded and on life support, the city said, after erroneously reporting that the person had died. Authorities had said the protester was shot by a civilian, adding that police did not open fire.
An AFP reporter at the scene of the protests outside the Omni Charlotte hotel saw a man who was apparently shot falling to the ground, bleeding heavily.
The evening started out with a peaceful vigil for Scott, but the atmosphere changed dramatically once demonstrators walked to the nearby police headquarters, where one protester pulled the American flag to the bottom of its flagpole.
– Protesters ‘seething’ –
By the time the protesters walked the few blocks to uptown, and encountered riot police standing like statues on Trade Street, the marchers were seething.
“It’s too much. It’s too much,” winced one woman, wiping tears from her eyes as she stood before riot police.
“We’ve got brothers and sisters and children and fathers who think we’re not going to live to see the next day. Nobody should have to live like that,” she said.
Some demonstrators stood on cars and hurled objects at police, who fired what appeared to be tear gas, sending the protesters scattering.
Scott’s death is the latest in a string of police-involved killings of black men that have fueled outrage across the United States.
Ahead of Wednesday’s protest, presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton weighed in on the violence in Charlotte, which came on the heels of another fatal police shooting of a black man, Terence Crutcher, on Friday in Tulsa.
“Keith Lamont Scott. Terence Crutcher. Too many others. This has got to end. -H,” tweeted Democrat Clinton, signing the post herself.
After calling to “make America safe again” in a tweet, Trump suggested later Wednesday that the Tulsa officer who shot Crutcher had “choked.”
“I don’t know what she was thinking,” the Republican said, speaking at an African-American church in Cleveland, Ohio.
– Divergent accounts –
The Charlotte shooting took place at 4:00 pm (2000 GMT) Tuesday as officers searching for a suspect arrived in the parking lot of an apartment complex.
They spotted a man later identified as Scott, who they said was holding a handgun as he exited and then re-entered a vehicle, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief Kerr Putney told journalists.
Officers approached the man and loudly commanded him to get out and drop the weapon, at which point Scott exited the vehicle armed, according to police.
“He stepped out, posing a threat to the officers, and officer Brentley Vinson subsequently fired his weapon, striking the subject,” the police chief said.
However, Putney added that he did not know whether Scott “definitively pointed the weapon specifically toward an officer.”
Carrying a firearm is legal under “open carry” gun laws in North Carolina.
Scott’s relatives told local media that he was waiting for his young son at school bus stop when police arrived. He was not carrying a gun but a book when he was shot dead, they said — an account police disputed.
“I can tell you a weapon was seized. A handgun,” Putney said. “I can also tell you we did not find a book that has been made reference to.”
Anger was simmering in Charlotte earlier in the day, especially over the police chief’s assertion that Scott had been armed.
“It’s a lie,” said Taheshia Williams, whose daughter attends school with the victim’s son. “They took the book and replaced it with a gun.”
Earlier on Wednesday evening, several hundred angry protesters, mostly African American, marched to the Charlotte police headquarters.
Some chanted “No Justice! No Peace!” while others banged on the door.
A young boy held a sign saying “My life matters.”
– Series of shootings –
A string of fatal police shootings — from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to St. Paul, Minnesota — has left many Americans demanding law enforcement reforms and greater accountability.
In the southern state of Oklahoma, Tulsa police chief Chuck Jordan called video footage of Crutcher’s deadly shooting on Friday disturbing and “very difficult to watch.”
The 40-year-old is seen with his hands up, appearing to comply with police officers before he is shot once by officer Betty Shelby and falls to the ground. Another officer fires his stun gun.
The US Department of Justice said Monday it would conduct a federal civil rights probe into the Tulsa shooting, parallel to an investigation being carried out by local authorities.
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