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Civil rights groups, CMPD reach agreement in lawsuit filed after controversial treatment of protesters in 2020

The terms of the agreement include extensive revisions to CMPD directive.
Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 2:06 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 23, 2021 at 7:53 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, the city of Charlotte, and multiple civil rights groups have reached an agreement regarding a lawsuit filed following the controversial handling of a peaceful protest in 2020 against police brutality and the killing of George Floyd.

[Thousands attend Charlotte NAACP protest against injustice, police brutality]

Civil rights groups filed suit on behalf of NAACP, Charlotte Uprising, Team TruBlue, Southeast Asian Coalition Village, the ACLU of North Carolina, and four Charlotte residents last year.

The terms of the agreement include extensive revisions to CMPD directives, including a ban on the use of CS tear gas during protests; a ban on the use of chemical weapons to “kettle” or trap protesters; an agreement that crowd dispersal orders must be communicated clearly and repeatedly in English and Spanish, allowing protesters reasonable time to disperse, identifying at least two egress routes for protesters to safely disperse; and a provision that prohibits CMPD from directing pepper balls at protesters’ heads and necks.

The agreement also states that the CMPD will not use bikes as weapons during protests, except when someone poses a threat to safety. The settlement agreement will be in effect for four years and provides a mechanism to enforce violations by CMPD.

The suit alleged that on June 2, 2020, CMPD orchestrated a premeditated and violent attack on peaceful demonstrators, trapping them from the front and back in a city block through a military maneuver called “kettling” and then, with no route of escape, assaulted them with rubber bullets, tear gas, stinger grenades and pepper balls shot from a parking deck adjacent to the block.

Video from Queen City Nerve first brought attention to the department’s use of chemical munitions during protests that night.

[CMPD to release video of June 2 tear gas incident]

Body worn camera footage appeared to show a plan by CMPD bike unit leaders to purposefully tear gas protesters on both sides on Fourth street.

“Wave goodbye, they’re all about to get gassed,” an officer said in part of the video.

[Charlotte council bans CMPD from buying tear gas for crowd control]

The agreement also states that the CMPD will not use bikes as weapons during protests, except when someone poses a threat to safety.

That same night, an officer was recorded saying, “Rory’s got a platoon on Tyron, out of sight, Dan’s platoon is on College, out of sight. We’re going to push their a** straight up Fourth. As soon as we get them on Fourth we got a bottleneck now. Rory’s squad is going to step out and hammer their a**. And when they start running down, Dan’s platoon is going to hammer their a**.”

[CMPD releases video, disciplines sergeant over ‘inappropriate comments during June 2 tear gas incident]

More than 100 hours of footage were collected from at least 50 sources.

“People should not be brutalized when they are exercising their right to protest. This agreement is a step in the right direction, but it’s insufficient to reckon with the violence and trauma protesters endured at the hands of police across the state last year,” said Kristie Puckett-Williams, statewide manager of the ACLU of North Carolina’s Campaign for Smart Justice.

The settlement agreement will be in effect for four years and provides a mechanism to enforce violations by CMPD.

“We appreciate the points that were brought to our attention by the NAACP as these constructive criticisms always make us better,” said CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings

Read CMPD’s full statement below:

Following the events that occurred on June 2, 2020, CMPD reviewed and revised several of its policies, directives and standard operating procedures including the Civil Emergency Unit’s SOP as we identified several areas where we could improve. We made those changes accordingly including the removal of CS as a chemical agent for crowd control, egress routes, dispersal order procedures, use of riot control agents and more. The NAACP provided input on some dispersal order language as well as contributed some new language on the use of public order bikes and dual sports. We appreciate the points that were brought to our attention by the NAACP as these constructive criticisms always make us better. We are a learning agency and always looking for ways to improve as we owe that to the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and all of those we serve because it is the right thing to do.

CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings

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