By the time I went to bed last night the news channels were absorbed yet again with the sad spectacle of a city threatening to go up in flames. Charlotte, North Carolina was in turmoil following the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. What started out as the “Charlotte protests” during the day quickly followed a pattern we’ve seen in other cities once the sun went down and it became the Charlotte riots. The confrontations with police officers, even if vocal and loud, were to be expected, but once the wide scale looting began and someone was nearly killed, this was no longer a protest. (WNCN TV)
Late Wednesday night, N.C. Governor Pat McCrory declared a State of Emergency after it was requested by the Charlotte police chief, officials said. McCrory also announced that the N.C. National Guard and N.C. State Highway Patrol would be deployed to Charlotte after a request from police there.
The Charlotte Police Chief on Wednesday night announced that a shooting victim died, but hours later the city said the person was in critical condition on life support.
City officials said the shooting was not due to a police officer and instead was a civilian who shot another civilian.
This bit of local news coverage provides some of the horrible sights and sounds.
Perhaps I’m still a bit of an idealist, but I have to confess that this wasn’t the riot I was expecting. If there was going to be a bloody riot anywhere this week I’d guessed that it would come in Tulsa as part of the fallout from the shooting of Terence Crutcher. That one had all the hallmarks of the shooting of an unarmed suspect which, while possibly justified based on Mr. Crutcher’s hand movements, just looked awful and was bound to have the public in considerable distress. The shooting of Keith Scott, however, is still a major question mark and I’d hoped that effective communications with the public might have kept a lid on things until we had more answers. One witness – a relative of Scott’s – said he was in his car reading a book. The cops say he got out of the car with a gun and they recovered the weapon. Only one of these stories can be true and the police are saying there is some video of the event.
If so, that needs to be released immediately. In fact, one could reasonably argue that if the video had been put out in public to counter the narrative spreading like wildfire on social media, the riot might not have taken place. There’s a huge difference between a gun and a book. If you get out of your car in front of the cops holding a handgun (an important distinction from having a holstered firearm on your person with a permit for either open or concealed carry) you’ve just taken the situation from an investigation to a crisis in under a second. And if that’s the case, as the police are saying, the anger over the shooting would have been significantly defused.
As to the entire “protest” question which was being bandied about on Twitter last night, there’s one rule to keep in mind. As soon as store windows are smashed and people are running off with new flat screen televisions, it’s no longer a protest. It’s a riot, replete with the looting and violence which always characterizes such unlawful actions. Now the Governor has declared a state of emergency and the specter of National Guard troops roaming the streets is on everyone’s minds. It’s a repeat of Baltimore, though with less buildings ablaze thus far. And it’s precisely what we didn’t need.