Usually bustling at this time of year, the Queen City remains in a suspended state five days after the death of a black man shot by police sparked days of protests.
Many stores in downtown Charlotte have been closed since violent demonstrations scared the city Tuesday evening, and even those that are open are seeing little business or closing early. Late Friday evening, Jane and Robert Clarksen sat on the patio of a Mellow Mushroom pizza restaurant as hundreds of protesters filed by. The restaurant — one of the Clarksens’ favorites – is usually packed, but the couple, who have lived in Charlotte for more than 10 years, were among the only customers.
“It’s as if Charlotte isn’t Charlotte,” said Jane Clarkson, a retired chef. “I just don’t know what to think about it all.”
Another day of protests was expected Saturday as community activists continue to push for the police to release tapes of the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year-old black man. On Friday, Scott’s widow released a cellphone video that she had taken of the encounter. The footage shows what happened seconds before and after the shooting but not whether Scott had a gun, as police have claimed.
In the video, Rakeyia Scott can be heard yelling to the officers that her husband was unarmed.“Don’t shoot him,” she says.
Police officials have so far refused to release the body camera and dash camera videos that protesters say could shed light on the incident.
“Release the tapes. Release the tapes,” was a popular refrain Friday evening as hundreds of protesters spent hours snaking their way through downtown, continuing to demonstrate hours past the city’s midnight curfew. Police officers on bicycles looked on, directing traffic away from major highways, and National Guard troops stood in front of major city markers, including Bank of America Stadium, the home of the Charlotte Panthers.
Near the back of the crowd Friday was Snowden Littlejohn, a lifelong Charlotte resident. She was on a double date with her husband, eating dinner downtown when they saw protesters come by and decided to join in.
“We wanted to show our support to the community,” said Littlejohn, who is white. “White people are afraid to come down. [But] I don’t want to turn a blind eye to it. It is important that we are here.”
Unlike during the early days of protests, when demonstrators broke windows and police arrested dozens of people, marches over the past two evenings have remained relatively calm. However, police said they arrested 11 people during the protests that had taken place since Friday, including for breaking the curfew and disorderly conduct.
Several local clergy members, who wore yellow ribbons on their arms to distinguish themselves, say that after the initial violence they are focused on defusing any potential conflicts.
“It’s not enough for me to be in the pulpit,” said Byron Davis, leader of Liberation Ministries in Charlotte. “We’re here where Jesus would be.”
SOURCE: Renae Merle
The Washington Post