What a week. I dont think Charlotte has seen anything like this week in quite sometime.
I came home from an Dismantling Racism workshop Tuesday evening to learn that there had been ANOTHER CMPD Officer involved shooting and death earlier in the day. To no surprise, the victim was a Black Male. I turned on the TV to see pictures of a small protest going on in the University area. I watched the sights and sounds for most of the night.
On Wednesday, I learned that there would be a peaceful vigil and march starting at Marshall Park uptown after work. I planned to go with a few other colleagues who are also criminal defense attorneys.
We heard speakers and we marched and chanted. We marched from the park, past the courthouse, past the jail, to the Little Rock AME Zion Church on 7th. From there, some went inside, others marched on. We marched on, and chanted until our voices were raw. We marched to CMPD headquarters, then to the Epicenter. There was a particular motivation to go past Candy Bar in the Epicenter, which the weekend before had allegedly been denying admission to Black patrons.
All was calm and peaceful. No items were thrown, no property was damamged. Up to this point, the only police we saw were those who were careful to block traffic to accomodate our march. It was going well. We were in a large group. However, at approximately 8:13pm (See my Twitter feed @emrylaw for a video), several dozens of CMPD officers dressed in riot gear, marched down Trade Street and formed a wall along Trade Street. They were agitating the crowd, forcing people back, preventing the flow of foot traffic, preventing the march from continuing. It seemed that CMPD had no plan, as they then formed two perpendicular lines, then ultimately a box. They were defending a tiny spot of concrete on Trade Street for no reason in particular. At some point, they decided to withdraw from the area altogether. The went back on Trade Street to the west and ultimately went into the Omni Hotel. The crowd that had gathered around during this “military-like” exercise followed. We marched on, thinking we were heading to Trade and Tryon. As people converged around the Omni, we noticed the police make a charge at the the front line of protestors. They fired gas, flash bangs, and rubber bullets. We retreated across the street and watched in horror for the next few minutes from the sidewalk in front of City Smoke.
Being there, and seeing it firsthand, it is my truth that the police were the aggressors. They agitated a previously peaceful crowd for no reason. It was like they marched out looking for a fight and they ultimately got one. Once they marched it, the air was far more tense. It was as if a slow fuse was lit, and about 20 minutes after that, it went off.
I was proud to see my friend and colleague, Toussaint Romain out there, acting so bravely.
Wednesday was a tragedy that I truly believe would have never happened if the police handled themselves differently.
The protests went on, each day and each night.
It is important for people to be aware that these protests are not just about the tragic murder of Keith Scott. They are not about only police killings. They are about a community that is tired of the way their people and communities are policied by CMPD. African-American neighborhoods are not treated the same as white neighborhoods by CMPD. They act aggressively, they are at war with the citizens of low-income neighborhoods. People are tired of the systemic racism and implicit racial bias that infects our criminal justice system.
My hope and prayer is that people will take notice, they will ask Why?, and they will see that change needs to happen.Share