Charlotte curfew ends after largely peaceful protest night

2016-09-23 19:37
Charlotte police work the scene of a shooting after black police officer shot a black man (AP).

Charlotte police work the scene of a shooting after black police officer shot a black man (AP).

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Charlotte — A third night of protests over a fatal police shooting in Charlotte gave way to quiet streets as a curfew enacted by the city's mayor ended on Friday.

The largely peaceful Thursday night demonstrations in the city's business district, watched over by rifle-toting members of the National Guard, called on police to release video that could resolve wildly different accounts of the shooting of a black man earlier this week.

The family of Keith Lamont Scott, 43, was shown the footage on Thursday of his fatal shooting and demanded that police release it to the public.

Demonstrators chanted "release the tape" and "we want the tape" on Thursday while briefly blocking an intersection near Bank of America headquarters and later climbing the steps to the door of the city government centre. Later, several dozen demonstrators walked onto an interstate highway through the city, but they were pushed back by police in riot gear.

Charlotte is the latest US city to be shaken by protests and recriminations over the death of a black man at the hands of police, a list that includes Baltimore, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York and Ferguson, Missouri. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Thursday, prosecutors charged a white officer with manslaughter for killing an unarmed black man on a city street last week.

Personal struggle

But Thursday's protests in Charlotte lacked the violence and property damage of previous nights, and the curfew encouraged a stopping point. Local officers' ranks were augmented by Guard members carrying rifles and guarding office buildings against the threat of property damage.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts signed documents on Thursday night to be in effect from midnight until 06:00 each day that the state of emergency declared by the governor continues.

After the curfew took effect, police allowed the crowd of demonstrators to thin without forcing them off the street. Police captain Mike Campagna told reporters that officers would not seek to arrest curfew violators as long as they were peaceful.

So far, police have resisted releasing police dashcam and body camera footage of Scott's death. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said on Friday that releasing the footage of Scott's killing could inflame the situation and damage trust in the community. He has said previously that the video will be made public when he believes there is a "compelling reason" to do so.

"It's a personal struggle, but I have to do what I think is best for my community," Putney said during a news conference on Friday.

Roberts said during that same news conference that "I do believe the video should be released. The question is on the timing."

Wife witnessed shooting

Police have said Scott was shot to death Tuesday by a black officer after he disregarded repeated warnings to drop his gun. Neighbours, though, have said he was holding only a book. The police chief said a gun was found next to the dead man, and there was no book.

Putney said he has seen the video and it does not contain "absolute, definitive evidence that would confirm that a person was pointing a gun". But he added: "When taken in the totality of all the other evidence, it supports what we said".

Justin Bamberg, an attorney for Scott's family, watched the video with the slain man's relatives. He said that in the video, Scott gets out of his vehicle calmly.

"While police did give him several commands, he did not aggressively approach them or raise his hands at members of law enforcement at any time. It is impossible to discern from the videos what, if anything, Mr Scott is holding in his hands," Bamberg said in a statement.

Scott was shot as he walked slowly backward with his hands by his side, Bamberg said.

The lawyer said at a news conference earlier in the day that Scott's wife saw him get shot, "and that's something she will never, ever forget". That is the first time anyone connected with the case has said the wife witnessed the shooting.

The police chief acknowledged that he has promised transparency in the investigation, but said, "I'm telling you right now, if you think I say we should display a victim's worst day for consumption, that is not the transparency I'm speaking of."

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