U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is sending help to riot-stricken Charlotte NC in the form of communicator bureaucrats. While a federal investigation into the September 20 shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, a black man, by a black police officer has yet to be announced, Lynch said that four members of her department’s Community Relations Office are on their way.
Arriving today were several activists from out of state who will bolster efforts by local groups in the wake of the riots and looting of the last two nights. One man died as a result of wounds he received last night, and there have been several arrests. At least 16 police officers have been injured. More demonstrations are expected as pressures mount from several quarters for the police to release video of the incident.
Lynch said that the “protests were marred by violence...an awful reminder that violence only begets violence.” Saying that demonstrators have a constitutional right to peaceful protest, Lynch said, "We need your voice. We need your passion. We need your commitment. But I urge those responsible for the violence to stop. You are drowning out the voices of commitment and change and ushering in more tragedy and grief in our communities."
Meanwhile, the North Carolina National Guard has been deployed to safeguard the streets of Charlotte in concert with state troopers and local police. Troop carriers and humvees were seen on the street in desert camo and carrying what appeared to be sound generators for crowd control. Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency yesterday after complaining that he had not yet heard from President Obama. McCrory is running for reelection.
Among the outside activists are Rev. Michael McBride, a minister from California who leads his Live Free campaign against mass incarceration, and Rev. Traci Blackmon, who has been praised by the Black Lives Matter for her activism in Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting. Numerous pastors from the region and beyond came to Charlotte to preach peace, while there were others who were calling for stronger measures. B.J. Murphy of the Nation of Islam, a black nationalist group that has been accused of racism and anti-Semitism, called for an economic boycott of white-owned businesses. “Since black lives don’t matter to this city, then our black dollars shouldn’t matter.” He added, “We’re calling all black people in Charlotte to keep your money in your pocket...and let everybody feel the pain economically that we’re feeling physically.”
Corine Mack, who presides over the local NAACP branch said today that heretofore Chief Kerry Putney, who is black, had worked with groups to build up trust in the police on the part of the community. However, that trust has eroded, she said. “We were proud of the work we had done with CMPD,” Mack said at a news conference. “To the police chief whom we have worked with very closely in the past: Shame on you.”
Robin Tanner, chair of Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice, said during a NAACP news conference that protests on the evening of September 21 "began with such promise and beauty," but once she and other clergy went to an entertainment hub uptown, things became agitated. She said it began when marched towards members of the clergy. The officers marched toward the Omni Hotel, "and then we saw people began to be struck with the clubs. We saw people falling and hitting the floor. We heard a shot. people began to run. It was chaos. .... As soon as the shot was fired we heard a smoke bomb. As soon as the smoke bomb was released, we heard some kind of light or sound bomb, a flash bomb, and then tear gas. We could not run out of there fast enough as the canisters were released out into us," she said.
"This is a city that made me a minister. It's the first place I've served. This is the city where I married my spouse, where I had my children, and now now this is the city that tear gassed me," she said.
High stakes for Democrats
The stakes are high for Democrats, and for the progressives and leftists who support the party. Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, is facing increasingly difficult odds in his reelection bid against Democrat Roy Cooper, the veteran state attorney general. In the presidential contest, Donald Trump is leading by only 1.2 points against Hillary Clinton: 44.5 to 43.3 n a RealClearPolitics average of polls. President Barack Obama has called on Democrats to vote for Clinton, saying that he would take it as a “personal insult” if they do not come out and vote as they did in 2008.
While faith leaders and political activists have been vocal, there has been relative silence from the two most prominent Democrats in the country. After a night of rioting, there came a tweet from Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton: “Keith Lamont Scott. Terence Crutcher. Too many others. This has got to end.” Coincidently, the Democratic National Committee canceled a press call scheduled for today to discuss the candidate’s proposals for historically black colleges and universities. It was to be hosted by Assistant Democratic Leader Rep. Jim Clyburn and Rep. Alma Adams, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as the DC Democrats President Adriyanna Andreus, who is also active in the NAACP.
Obama: Justice is not always colorblind
And President Barack Obama was silent after two nights of rioting until an interview he granted to ABC’s Good Morning America was released tonight. In the interview, Obama said, “The way we change the system requires to be able to reach out and engage the broader American community and that requires being peaceful, that requires being thoughtful about what are the specific reforms you're looking for.” Obama told ABC news host Robin Roberts at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, “[The] overwhelming majority of people who have been concerned about police-community relations [are] doing it the right way,” the president said. “Every once in a while you see folks doing it the wrong way.”
“I think it's important to separate out the pervasive sense of frustration among a lot of African Americans about shootings of people and the sense that justice is not always color blind,” the president also said.
Police already had their hands full in Charlotte, which has seen a significant rise in the crime rate in recent years. According to a report released this week by the prestigious Brennan Center for Law and Justice, crime in the nation overall in 2016 is projected to remain nearly the same as in 2015, rising 1.3%. Twelve cities are expected to see drops in crime. However, these decreases are offset by Chicago (rising 9.1%), and Charlotte (rising 17.5%). Nationally, crime remains at an all-time low.
Trump: The drug 'factor'
As for Republicans, Donald Trump opined at a rally in Pennsylvania that narcotics is at the root of the rioting in Charlotte. "If you're not aware, drugs are a very, very big factor in what you're watching on television at night," said Trump in a speech to the Shale Insight 2016 Conference in Pittsburgh. Calling for unity, Trump condemned the violence and called for a new anti-crime agenda. "Our country looks bad to the world, especially when we are supposed to be the world's leader. How can we lead when we can't even control our own cities? We honor and recognize the right of all Americans to peacefully assemble, protest and demonstrate, but there is no right to engage in violent disruption or to threaten the public safety and peace of others."
Sen. Tim Scott (R-NC), who was the first black Republican elected to the Senate for a southern state since the 1880s, called for fellow citizens to “come together as an American family” and find solutions. "We cannot return violence with violence, or allow our frustration and sadness to lead to more heartbreak,” he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday evening, as news broke that a person had been shot at the protest by a civilian.
Referring not only to the fatal shooting in Charlotte, but also to the shooting death of Pastor Terence Crutcher in Tulsa OK, the senator said, "The tragedies in Tulsa and Charlotte show us the full magnitude of the challenges we face as a nation when it comes to police and community relations.”
U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) spoke out on Twitter and echoed the senator’s appeal. "The frustration and anger felt when innocent citizens are killed by law enforcement officers...must result in swift and certain justice," he said. "But it must be justice - not vigilantism." And Scott’s colleague, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) has proposed ‘Solution Sundays,’ where families invite families of other races to share a meal.
CNN reporter was tackled and knocked to the ground
During the riots, a CNN reporter was assaulted and knocked to the ground, a press photographer was injured when he was tossed into a burning pyre of rubbish, and a white man was assaulted and beaten by black assailants during the riots. He begged to be left alone while he was beaten in a parking garage in Charlotte. Rioters waylaid at least two semi-trailers passing through Charlotte while they shut down traffic on the thoroughfare. The trucks were looted and their contents burned. Shops were vandalized and looted near the arena of the Hornets professional basketball team. Rioters were seen looting cash registers from shops and also calmly trying on stolen shoes.
One man, who identified himself as the brother of Keith Lamont Scott reacted emotionally to the news of his death, saying that white people are “devils.”
Civil rights versus Black Lives Matter
In contrast, the civil rights movement of the 1960s was characterized by peaceful resistance among black protesters and their allies against Jim Crow laws and restrictions against voting. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who had been influenced not only by his readings of the work of German theologian Reinhold Niebuhr but also Mahatma M. Gandhi, he required his adherents to take a pledge against violence.
Here follows the pledge:
Martin Luther King and Marcher’s Pledge of Non-Violence
I hereby pledge myself -- my person and body -- to the nonviolent movement. Therefore I will keep the following ten commandments:
1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
2. Remember always that the non-violent movement seeks justice and reconciliation — not victory.
3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
10.Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.
I sign this pledge, having seriously considered what I do and with the determination and will to persevere.
The various groups that have been involved in demonstrations in Ferguson MO, Baton Rouge LA, and Charlotte NC, have not been explicitly Christian or non-violent in their orientation. On its official website, Black Lives Matter’s “Guiding Principles” steer far afield of Christian guidelines:
“We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, and especially ‘our’ children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable.”
“We are committed to embodying and practicing justice, liberation, and peace in our engagements with one another.”
“We are committed to fostering a queerÂ?]affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking or, rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual unless s/he or they disclose otherwise.”
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.