CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles invited the public to speak about police relations as community members are protesting against police brutality and racial injustice.
The public was invited to the front of the government center Wednesday night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. where Mayor Lyles, members of Charlotte City Council and CMPD Police Chief Kerr Putney addressed questions from the community.
Hundreds of people showed up, demanding answers after chemical agents were used during Tuesday night protests.
“We should not be afraid to peacefully protest," a person at the conversation said into a loudspeaker.
Mayor Lyles and Councilman At-Large Braxton Winston were in the middle, answering questions and facilitating conversation. After many chants demanding Chief Putney come to the government center, city councilmember Tariq Bokhari told the crowd Putney was on his way.
During the conversation, the group started chanting “walk with us, walk with us." They were then joined in a march with city council members and Mayor Lyles.
Mayor Vi Lyles said this conversation would include questions about protests, the video of a CMPD-involved incident from Tuesday night and police violence. Lyles said CMPD knows what happened Tuesday night was unacceptable.
“Everyone out in the streets. We are sacrificing so our children and our children’s children have a better life,” someone in the crowd said.
Charlotte City Councilmember At-Large Braxton Winston tweeted the video Tuesday night, captured by Queen City Nerve, a Charlotte alternative newspaper, showing the incident in question.
“The deployment of chemical agents in Charlotte needs to end tonight,” Winston tweeted.
Gemini Boyd, a community activist, was at the conversation Wednesday and called for no more excuses from the city and CMPD.
When CMPD Chief Kerr Putney arrived, he expressed his frustrations with police brutality and had a question for the crowd.
“I understand the frustration. I have it too. But I want to know, what do we really want to do about it?,” Putney said.
The crowd had many questions about why Tuesday night’s incidents were allowed.
"Who gave the order?” Someone in the crowd asked about tear gas being deployed during Tuesday protests.
Chief Putney says he authorizes certain actions when protests go from peaceful to violent, but said leadership in the civil emergency unit also makes decisions.
Putney promised not to use chemical agents on protesters if there is no violence.
“Are you going to gas us tonight when we march?,” the crowd asked.
“We will absolutely not if there is no violence,” Putney responded.
The crowd then erupted saying there wasn’t any violence Tuesday night, but CMPD said in a press release that things were being thrown at officers, including rocks Tuesday.
“I said the specific order at that time is being investigated right now," Putney said as he was questioned about which officer specifically made the call to use tear gas in the incident on 4th street Tuesday.
Some even called on Chief Putney to march with them Wednesday night so “he can see.”
Putney says he will petition to release the body cam video of Tuesday night’s incident. He says it will “show the full picture.” The department tweeted Wednesday night saying Putney would “immediately” petition the courts for the release of videos associated with Tuesday night’s 4th Street incident at the conclusion of the SBI’s review.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is conducting an independent review of CMPD procedures after 50 complaints were filed against the department related to incidents during Tuesday night protests in Charlotte.
City leaders questioned CMPD’s actions during a June 2 incident caught on video by a local alternative newspaper during uptown Charlotte protests. Since Friday, police say CMPD’s Internal Affairs has received 50 complaints on officers, 49 of which were received Wednesday.
There are currently no officers on administrative leave in reference to protest-related incidents.
City Manager Marcus Jones says regardless of the outcome of the SBI investigation, CMPD will review their policies.