A dispatch from the streets of Charlotte

Protesters and armored police in downtown Charlotte. Photo by Danielle Purifoy.

There was a march last night (Wednesday night) from Marshall Park to the Trade St and Tryon St. intersection. I followed the march with supplies for the marchers and parked about a block away. I was handing out some water when one of the demonstrators asked if I could take her contact information so she could get involved in local organizing.

As I was writing her name down, everyone started running; so we did, too. Then everyone heard the gunshots. When I turned back around there was a woman who had been tear gassed to the point that she could hardly see, and was bent over struggling to breathe. Her daughter, who couldn't have been more than 8, was crying and kept asking her mom if she was okay. At that point, all I had was water, so we tried working with that.

Looking back up the street, there was a big cluster of folk in front of the Omni Hotel, and then suddenly more tear gas, and more running. And then I heard folks saying—“they shot him, they shot that man.”

Now, this is important, because later accounts of this shooting in the media parroted a police statement that blamed the shooting on a civilian. Every person whom I heard from the crowd around the Omni said the police shot the man in the head. They said he was probably dead. Some folks said the police shot him for trying to go into the hotel. I don't know how it happened, but I do know that nobody at that moment said anything about a civilian shooter. And I believe them for several reasons, particularly because I can't imagine there not being more gunfire by police in response, and either a dead shooter or mention of someone in custody for the shooting. Also, all of those folks were not collectively lying less than three minutes after they witnessed a shooting. [Editor's note: the author's account has since been corroborated by reporting in The Guardian.]

More police mobilized in riot gear, and one of them drove a truck directly into the crowd, forcing people to jump out of the way.

I started walking to get back to the supplies, and I saw a woman sobbing and walking from the direction of the Omni, her friends comforting her and looking stunned. By the time I reached my car, the police had formed a wall along the street and there was a standoff. For the rest of the night, they arrested people and attempted to disperse us with tear gas, concussion grenades, etc. At the end of the night, when there were only a handful of folks left on the street, I saw them snatch a guy from around the corner, disable him (maybe with a Taser?), and carry him off.

If folk had come last night wanting a war, there would have been one, especially after that shooting. Instead, people chanted, sang, danced, and supported one another. They stopped one man from getting into a fight with a White guy who had been throwing fireworks, allegedly in solidarity. Someone yelled—"that's not what we're here for."

I didn't need to see last night to know that abolishing the police and the carceral system that it supports is the only way out of this horror. Last night was just more proof. I don't have a ton of hope for abolition at the moment, but I can't talk about reform ever again.