CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Police say a city council member was among several people arrested as hundreds gathered in Charlotte Friday to protest the death of George Floyd, the man who died in police custody in Minnesota.
About 250 protesters gathered outside of the Beatties Ford CMPD precinct. Charlotte police were standing guard at the front of the building. CMPD said their Civil Emergency Unit was deployed and declared the gathering an unlawful assembly.
Police tweeted that several protesters started to throw rocks and objects at officers as they continued to facilitate protesters’ right to demonstrate. Police also tweeted that several protesters had damaged police cruisers and continued to throw rocks at officers and the Metro Division office.
Charlotte police told a WBTV reporter that protesters looted the Food Lion on Beatties Ford Road. Police say they smashed windows using bricks and were inside for about 15 minutes. This grocery store is about 0.5 miles from the police station
CMPD Police Chief Kerr Putney confirmed Charlotte City Council member at-large Braxton Winston was arrested during the protest for failure to disperse. Winston was seen in the area during the protest, speaking with both police and protesters.
“A dispersal order has been issued to protect lives and property,” the tweet read.
Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles is urging non-violence in the situation
“Urging those in our community who are protesting tonight to refrain from violence. We can have activism and protests without violence,” Lyles tweeted.
Mayor Vi Lyles also spoke with WBTV Friday, addressing the Charlotte community amidst unrest all over the country.
“As, not just mayor of the city, as someone who has raised their family here and someone who believes in the neighborhood here, our strength comes from having good and healthy neighborhoods,” Mayor Lyles said. “We have to understand that we are knit together, not all alike, but we are knit together by a cause that says that we can live and work in a community together. We can’t go further in this divisiveness in this country."
CMPD says protesters continued to throw rocks at their Metro Division Office, breaking several windows. A WBTV reporter says he saw pepper balls and flash bangs fired. He also reported that he saw protesters throwing rocks and bottles.
Chief Putney spoke with WBTV Friday night about the protests and shared more information about what was going on in the city.
“We were allowing for the peaceful protest and then it turned on us. They started surrounding some of our officers. They took a bicycle from one of our officers, and at that point we deployed our CEU to establish order,” Putney said.
Chief Putney says the department gave protesters Beatties Ford Road for their demonstration and there were about 250 people involved.
“The whole point of a pre-planned event is to help facilitate First Amendment rights. If it goes sideways like it did tonight, we can address that as well to gain control to protect people’s lives and property,” Chief Putney said. “I understand the frustration, I’ve been very clear on that, but we can’t tolerate assaulted behavior. We can’t tolerate damage to property.”
Chief Putney said the people of Charlotte should be provide of how the police department handled the protests Friday night.
“You should be proud of your Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers. I am very proud of them. They showed restraint but they took care of business as they were going to. I’m humbled by their work, now we have to get prepared for what we are doing to see in the future,” Putney said.
Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden spoke with WBTV about the protests, and said he was actually in the area Friday.
“I actually went to Beatties Ford earlier today, because we, a couple of African-American sheriffs, are denouncing the actions of the officers in Minneapolis. We made a video that we denounced the action of these officers across America who continuously put us in these situations, that we are going to have to defend our careers and defend our community,” Sheriff McFadden said.
Sheriff McFadden said while there, he spoke to a mother whose son was involved in an officer-involved shooting and lost his life.
“We had a great conversation. I actually gave her a mask,” McFadden said.
Charlotte City Council member Malcolm Graham tweeted a statement about police brutality situations and the ongoing protests in Charlotte.
“The recent cases of police brutality that killed George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and other black men and women across the nation is abhorrent. It’s racism – plain and simple. I understand why the black community is angry. Police brutality must stop. Peaceful protest is good. We should make our voices heard. However, violence cannot be tolerated. As the City Council representative for District 2 which includes Beatties Ford Road. I say to you that we can’t tear up our city, and we can’t tear up our neighborhoods. There are ways to voice your anger and your concerns without causing additional loss of life property,” Graham’s statement read.
The white Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck was arrested and charged with murder Friday, and authorities imposed an overnight curfew in Minneapolis to try to stem three nights of protests that left dozens of stores burned and looted.
Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the case. He was also accused of ignoring another officer at the scene who expressed concerns about the black man as he lay handcuffed on the ground, pleading that he could not breathe. Floyd had been arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill at a small grocery store.
Before the protests, Chief Putney sat down with Charlotte activists on Friday afternoon to condemn the actions of those officers in Minneapolis.
“It is ridiculous. It is disgusting,” Putney said. “It is frustrating, and I am getting tired of it. It’s a slap in the face to all of the good officers who are doing fantastic work. This sets us back decades.”
Earlier in the day, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police were seen blocking off a side road next to their Beatties Ford police station to prepare for the protesters. By 6:36 p.m., several protesters were already seen starting to gather in Charlotte.
Protests over Floyd’s death spread across the nation on Friday.