Peaceful Charlotte protests take a turn late Sunday night, 15+ arrested

Updated: Jun. 1, 2020 at 12:47 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Protests went from peaceful to violent as the day was coming to an end during the third night of Charlotte protests on Sunday.

More than fifteen arrests were made during demonstrations that started Sunday night and went into Monday morning, including several involving weapon charges, according to police. “One of the protesters arrested for hitting an officer in the face with a rock,” CMPD tweeted.

The demonstrations were in response to the death of an unarmed black man who died at the hands of a Minnesota police officer last week.

Just after 11 p.m., several arrests were made when protesters reportedly threw objects at police officers near the Omni Hotel and Epicentre.

Officers arrived it tactical gear and attempted to disperse a hostile crowd.

Protesters went on to damage windows at Wells Fargo and Chipotle on South College Street,

Sunday started with demonstrators marching in large crowds at various locations in uptown Charlotte Sunday in response to the death of George Floyd.

At one point, a person attempted to throw an object at a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer.

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A WBTV reporter said that another protester stopped them. “No. We’re not doing that tonight," a protester said.

For most of the day, it appeared that crowds would remain peaceful before things took a turn just before 11 p.m. on College Street.

People started throwing things at police line and CMPD launched tear gas before instructing people to leave immediately or be arrested.

WBTV was there as a person was handcuffed in the middle of College Street.

Moments later, there was another person under arrest in the back of this CMPD van. A crowd gathering around, some raising their voices at officers on bicycles.

While it seemed, at times, protests were gaining tense momentum, the movement remained mostly peaceful.

Many, such as the activist group Heal Charlotte, tried to keep the peace.

Greg Jackson, the group’s organizer, said they wanted to voice their opinions without rioting.

In the first two days, dozens of people were arrested, a couple of police officers suffered minor injuries, and businesses are left cleaning up messes of broken windows.

It was a different setting for most of Sunday.

Crowds slowly dispersed as the evening progressed. By late Sunday, there were only a couple hundred peaceful protesters remaining.

WBTV marched right along as hundreds of protesters moved through the streets, raising signs and their voices for several hours. The demonstrations remained peaceful as the protesters made their way through uptown.

Just after 9:30 p.m., many protesters left peacefully, and crowds got much smaller.

However, moments before, police were prepared for any raucous. Officers were in tactical gear, walking in walls and making sure protesters remained at peace.

Around 9 p.m., hundreds of protesters stopped at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Headquarters in uptown. About 30 minutes later, a group stopped at the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office and shot off fireworks.

Walking along MLK Boulevard in uptown Charlotte, around 8:30 p.m., protesters stopped and knelt in front of a police barricade. An activist with Heal Charlotte was in the middle trying to keep people from approaching the officers.

At that time, police said that four arrests were made, including a person who was illegally possessing a gun.

Just before 8 p.m., protesters marched down Tryon Street in uptown Charlotte holding signs and chanting “I can’t breathe” and “Black Lives Matter.” A wall of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers barricaded Third Street to allow protesters to march through.

While protesters walked along Tryon Street, WBTV caught police arresting a person in the middle of the street.

Officers had one man on the ground in handcuffs as protesters chanted, “no justice, no peace."

WBTV was at the scene as a man seen wearing an Antifa shirt, according to witnesses, was taken away in a police vehicle.

Protesters then chanted, “George Floyd.”

Around 7 p.m., officers put on tactical gear as protesters were clogging up uptown and refused to move.

Police said that a large group of protests was marching on Caldwell Street. CMPD officers said they were escorting protesters to ensure a safe and peaceful demonstration.

On Friday and Saturday, protests turned violent during the evening hours, and it continued through the night.

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At 5:30 p.m., protesters gathered at Romare Bearden Park, and sang “We Shall Overcome.”

At 4 p.m., Gov. Roy Cooper said he is deploying 450 National Guardsman in response to the protests in multiple N.C. cities.

However, the city of Charlotte tweeted this is not true.

WBTV News has reached out to the governor’s office for clarification.

“I fear the cry of the people is being drowned out by the noise of the riots,” Cooper said. “People are more important than property. Black lives do matter.”

Cooper said he spoke with the mayors of Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro and Fayetteville, and that their requests for state support in the form of the state highway patrol, SBI and National Guard soldiers are being fulfilled.

Just after 3:30 p.m., CMPD officer Brad Koch took a knee with the protesters. Koch had told WBTV moments before that the protest was going fine and that the group was planning to head back to where it began at Romare Bearden Park.

At 3:30 p.m., protesters arrived at E. 4th Street. There they took to one knee for nine minutes - which is how long George Floyd had told Officer Derek Chauvin - who was kneeling on his neck - that he couldn’t breathe on May 25.

Moments before, as they made their way past the Epicentre and near the Spectrum Center, protesters chanted “When black lives are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back,” among other things.

Sunday’s demonstrations began around 1 p.m. at Romare Bearden Park. The “ThugLifeProtest" demonstration appeared to have more than 100 attendees before 2 p.m. But that number would soon grow.

Just after 2:30, the group began marching out of Romare Bearden and further into uptown, chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, police brutality has got to go” as they were joined by more protesters.

The group began by heading up S. Church Street. CMPD officers marched along with the crowd to make sure the protesters stayed safe and peaceful.

Earlier, people gathered at Romare Bearden and held signs as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers walked through the crowds and talked with the protesters. Speakers urged fellow protesters to remain peaceful and stay safe.

“I understand you are upset but we have children out here we are not rioting or looting,” said one protest organizer.

A second protest was simultaneously held at First Ward Park, also in uptown, with hundreds in attendance.

The protests come after Officer Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. He is also accused of ignoring another officer who expressed concerns about Floyd as he lay handcuffed on the ground, pleading that he could not breathe while Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes. Floyd, who was black, had been arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill at a store.

Chauvin, who was fired along with three other officers who were at the scene, faces more than 12 years in prison if convicted of murder.

Since Floyd’s May 25 death, protests have been carried out in cities across the country - some turning violent and destructive at times.

Saturday’s protests in Charlotte remained mostly peaceful for several hours. Crowds grew throughout the day and continued into the night.

Police said at least 30 protesters were arrested over the last few hours of the demonstrations and into the morning hours. The charges ranged from assault to illegal gun possession to possession of a dangerous weapon at a demonstration.

Business were damaged throughout the night. Officers found shell casings inside the Panera Bread restaurant and BB&T bank. Kings Kitchen and Discovery Place also incurred expensive damage.

As the protest escalated, a group of protesters threw rocks at firefighters who were responding to an emergency call uptown.

Charlotte and Mecklenburg leaders declared a State of Emergency after Friday’s protests and ahead of the second night of protests in Charlotte on Saturday.

Charlotte’s protests began on Friday night. They remained mostly peaceful until sunset, when things turned more violent. CMPD says that rioters threw rocks and explosives at officers, damaged police property and community businesses.

Two officers were treated for injuries and were released from the hospital. Another officer suffered serious injuries.

Police also confirmed that 15 people were arrested, including Charlotte Council member Braxton Winston.

“The community’s voice is important to the CMPD," CMPD said in a statement Friday night, "and we will always work to safeguard and facilitate peaceful and lawful protests that do not injure our officers, threaten the safety of the community they serve and lead to the destruction of property.”

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