North Carolina Police Department Sparks Outrage for Deployment of Chemical Agents Against Protesters

A North Carolina police department has sparked outrage for deploying chemical agents against protesters. AP reports that as protesters marched, officers fired tear gas and flash-bangs both in front of and behind them. They also allegedly fired pepper balls down on the crowd from the tops of buildings.

Footage of the June 2 Charlotte, North Carolina incident was captured by Justin LaFrancois, publisher and co-founder of the Queen City Nerve, an alternative Charlotte newspaper. He recounted the harrowing experience to the AP, revealing the use of chemical agents on the peaceful protesters. "We were completely trapped," LaFrancois said. "There was one way to get out, and half of the group did go out that way through the tear gas and through the pepper balls." However, for LaFrancois and many others, "the only route of escape," which required them to "pull up a gate on the parking structure that we were pressed up against."

As the trapped protesters attempted to get underneath the gate and to safety, LaFrancois says the police continued to fire pepper balls at them. "They were relentless in not allowing us to leave the area that they were trying to get us to leave," he stated, then adding that this was "the most extreme action" that he has ever seen taken in a situation like this. "It was the first time that I was actually in fear for my life."

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have since issued a statement, stating that it has requested the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to look into the incident. "There is nothing to indicate whatsoever that there was intentional abuse on the part of our officers," CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said in the statement." However, he added that "in the interest of accountability," he has asked for "an independent review of the incident by the State Bureau of Investigation." This is to "ensure there is an objective set of eyes to determine if CMPD actions were lawful."

Mayor Vi Lyles also spoke, out, stating that the investigation could take some time, but they they "want to get the right information." Lyles added, "Last night was one of those times that none of us can be proud of that we wouldn’t want to see happen in our city. But it did." Lyles went on to say, "I hope everyone is aware that that’s not the kind of department we want to have for policing. It’s not the kind of reputation that we want to have nationally or locally."