In the early afternoon of Tuesday, September 20, city police in Charlotte’s University Park neighborhood noticed a black man park his SUV next to an unmarked police car. He was believed to be sighted with a marijuana cigarette in his hand, but police ignored his actions at first. According to police, the man later exhibited a firearm in his hand while still sitting in the car, which concerned police, who decide to confront the man. Multiple officers surrounded his SUV and broke his windows in an attempt to make him exit the vehicle. As police footage shows, the man exited the vehicle with his hands by his side and something dark strapped above his shoe. Moments later, Officer Brentley Vinson proceeded to fire upon the man as he was moving away from the vehicle with his hands by his side.
43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott was killed on the scene — the type of headline that is becoming fairly normal in the United States.
Charlotte isn’t the only city struggling with the issue of violence and police shootings. Recent events involving police and an unarmed black man, Terence Crutcher, in Tulsa on Friday, September 16 resulted in officer Betty Shelby being accused of manslaughter. However, the civic situation in Tulsa seems to be much quieter, as the city’s civil leaders told protesters to go home after hours of mourning in the days after the shooting.
900 miles away, Charlotte’s streets were flooded with hundreds of rioters and looters in the days following Scott’s shooting, and some vandalized vehicles and robbed businesses and shops. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (R) issued a state of emergency and deployed state Highway Patrol and National Guard units to downtown Charlotte. Riot control units tried to limit the crowd into one block but were eventually forced to throw tear gas into the crowd. In Charlotte’s city center, the standoff was broken by an exchange of gunshots fired into the crowd, leaving a 26-year-old man dead. On Wednesday, September 21, at 10 p.m., the National Guard began forcing people off the streets and arresting everyone who did not comply.
But as America has watched riots like these unfold in Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore, and more recently in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, and now Charlotte, some people find it difficult to see these protesters’ real motives for justice. The Black Lives Matter has emerged as a response to the repeating cycle of fatal law enforcement encounters with black individuals in countless examples over the past two years. But when rioters in Charlotte engaged local authorities with force and started to rob and loot businesses in their own city, it turned into more of an anti-police riot than a protest. For example, in Charlotte, a few peaceful voices were heard throughout the night, including a woman yelling at three young men robbing the Charlotte Hornets merchandise store. “Stop, that’s not what this is about.”
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been receiving lots of attention due to his choice to kneel during the national anthem as a symbol of “oppression to people of color” in the US. “It would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” he says, “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Groups of protesters in Charlotte were displaying Kaepernick’s message, kneeling on the sidewalk with their hands in the air facing the long line of local police. The city was expecting large protests before the Carolina Panthers NFL game on Sunday, September 25, but the armed soldiers and police officials were greeted by less than a hundred peaceful protesters singing, “No justice, no peace.” The authorities successfully made room for the protesters without disturbing fans tailgating or entering the stadium.
Investigators still aren’t completely sure what object was attached to Scott’s lower leg on the day he was killed. An ankle holster was found after the shooting, causing many to conclude Scott was armed. His wife, Rakeyia Scott, had filed a restraining order against him last October because of constant domestic abuse. “He punched my son 3 times with his fist,” Rakeyia Scott claims, “He killed me and threatened to kill us with his gun.” Scott also notes that her husband carries around a “9mm black gun,” without a permit. In 2002, Scott was charged with aggravated assault after shooting 10 rounds at a man in San Antonio, Texas, causing severe injuries. Despite many arguments claiming he was acting in self-defense, Scott ended up serving seven years in prison.
Scott’s funeral service was on September 28th in Charleston, South Carolina, where he was born and his mother, Vernita Scott Walker, still lives. Walker remembers the last words she said to her son the morning of the shooting. “I said, ‘I love you, son,’ and he said, ‘I love you, mama,’ and that’s the first time he ever said it like that.” Walker also shared her distaste for the riots in Charlotte; she noted that [Keith Scott] would have never let his children participate in the riots. “Y’all can have a peaceful walk or anything else that y’all want to do but rioting is not helping this situation,” she said. ‘It’s making it worse.” Charlotte is still recovering from the multiple days of riots and emotional unrest.