Charlotte leaders declare state of emergency after protests over George Floyd death
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Charlotte Observer) - Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and Mecklenburg County commissioners chair George Dunlap declared a state of emergency on Saturday.
The move came after demonstrators protesting the killing of George Floyd on Friday night slashed tires on a police cruiser, smashed windows at a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department substation, broke into a grocery store and pelted officers with water bottles along Beatties Ford Road in west Charlotte.
Demonstrators said more protests were planned over the next several days.
Lyles and Dunlap signed the joint order Saturday morning “to assist law enforcement efforts to respond to the protests,” according to an email County Manager Dena Diorio sent to top county leaders shortly after noon Saturday.
“Civil unrest has created a state of emergency in the County of Mecklenburg and the City of Charlotte,” the order says.
Dunlap told the Observer that it is possible that officials impose a curfew.
He also said that the National Guard could be deployed to protect property.
“I think it’s fair for people to vent their frustrations but they need to do it in a peaceful way,” Dunlap said.
Protests — mostly peaceful, sometimes destructive — have sprung up around the country since a viral video detailed how a white police officer on May 25 in Minneapolis pinned Floyd to the ground face down and pressed his knee into his neck. Floyd, a 46-year-old African American, can be heard saying “I can’t breathe.”
The officer has been fired and charged with third-degree murder.
On Friday night, three officers in Charlotte suffered minor injuries and multiple police vehicles sustained damaged during protests, CMPD said.
Police said someone discharged a firearm during the demonstrations. A suspect was identified and arrested, CMPD said.
City Council member Braxton Winston was among the protesters arrested Friday. He tweeted at 1:40 a.m. Saturday that he was “home safe.”
But County Commissioner Mark Jerrell condemned Winston’s arrest.
“When you don’t leverage your community leaders and somebody who is as respected as Braxton, it’s a complete misstep — it’s a complete miscalculation,” Jerrell told the Observer Saturday afternoon. “It shouldn’t be done, especially when he, as an elected official, is out putting himself in harm’s way and trying to protect both sides.”
Jerrell said he understands the pain and frustration among protesters, as they witness police brutality unfold “time after time after time.” But he said people must stay constructive, not destructive.
“I want us to look at policies that we can implement that dismantle these institutional structures and barriers that perpetuate racism and inequity in our society,” Jerrell said.
County Commissioner Vilma Leake, whose district includes the Beatties Ford Road, told the Observer she will try to join demonstrators on Saturday evening. But it’s unclear if protests will again gather in the same area — near a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police substation where windows were broken.
But Leake also urged residents to stay at home with their families and “set some agenda” to pave the way for positive change. And she pleaded with out-of-town protesters to avoid returning to Charlotte and causing additional destruction this weekend.
“Marching and demonstrating, it’s fine,” Leake said. “But when we begin to destroy the property within the confines of our community, I cannot support that and I do not support that.”