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State of Emergency: Charlotte NAACP & Protesters Demand Police Release Video of Keith Scott Shooting

September 22, 2016
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Guests

Bree Newsome

Charlotte-based artist and activist.

Corine Mack

president of the NAACP Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has declared a state of emergency in the city of Charlotte, where protests continued for a second night after Tuesday’s fatal police shooting of 43-year-old African American Keith Lamont Scott, the father of seven children. Police say Scott "posed an imminent deadly threat," but Scott’s family says he was unarmed. We are joined by Corine Mack, president of the NAACP Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch, and Bree Newsome, Charlotte-based artist and activist. They both call for the release of the police video of Scott’s killing. "There has to be transparency," Newsome says. "This distrust that exists between the police and the community is completely well-founded."


TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has declared a state of emergency in the city of Charlotte following protests Wednesday night during which police in riot gear fired rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray at protesters, who threw fireworks and trash at officers in return. Authorities said four officers were injured. Many demonstrators were also injured. The night’s protest also included a civilian-on-civilian shooting that left one man critically wounded and at least seven more people injured. The governor has also begun steps to deploy the National Guard.

AMY GOODMAN: This was the second night of protests in Charlotte following the fatal police shooting of 43-year-old African American Keith Lamont Scott, the father of seven. The shooting happened around 4:00 p.m. Tuesday after police arrived to serve an arrest warrant for another person at Scott’s housing complex. Accounts of the shooting diverge sharply. While the police claim they first tased and then shot Scott because he was armed and, quote, "posed an imminent deadly threat," Scott’s family says he was not armed—except with a book in hand. They say he had been sitting in his car, waiting to pick up his son after school. Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney said the police did not see a book and that Scott was seen entering a car with a gun.

POLICE CHIEF KERR PUTNEY: I can tell you a weapon was seized, a handgun. I can also tell you we did not find a book, that has been made reference to.

AMY GOODMAN: An eyewitness disputed the claim that Scott had a gun and not a book. This is [Taheshia] Williams.

TAHESHIA WILLIAMS: They replaced it with a gun. That’s what they did. They took the book and replaced it with a gun. Because that man, he sits out here every day. His son rides and goes to school with my daughter. That man sits out here every day and waits on his son to get off the bus. You understand how that—how that baby had to come home to that?

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined in Charlotte, North Carolina, by two guests. Corine Mack is president of the NAACP Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch. And we’re joined once again by Bree Newsome, artist and activist. Last year, with a helmet and climbing gear, she scaled the 30-foot flagpole on the South Carolina state Capitol in Columbia, South Carolina, and unhooked the Confederate flag. As police officers shouted at her to come down, Newsome shimmied to the top, took the Confederate flag in her hand and shouted, "You come against me with hatred. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today." She did this the day after the mass funeral for the nine parishioners and their minister, Clementa Pinckney, who were gunned down by a white supremacist in their church in Charleston, South Carolina.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Corine Mack, let’s begin with you. Can you explain what took place on Tuesday, as you understand it, and the differing—the differing accounts of what took place, despite the fact that police do have video but have not released it?

CORINE MACK: I, along with several other pastors, have been on the ground since Mr. Scott was killed. And we spoke at length with many, many people who live in the area and some who were eyewitnesses. And their account is in total contrast to what CMPD is giving us. What we were told was that Mr. Scott was sitting in his car reading a book, as he had done many, many days throughout the course of his life. He was the person that picked up his son, and he was also the person, many days, would pick up someone else’s children, if they couldn’t make it. So it’s interesting for us that a man who had a daily regimen of being seated in his car reading a book would now be seated in his car with a gun.

I’m even more disturbed with the lack of transparency in terms of the video. I think it’s important, because of the climate we’re in, the distrust of the police department and law enforcement, that that video or those videos be shown to the entire citizenry of Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

More importantly, I think it’s important to say that we spent millions of dollars to ensure that each police officer had on a body cam, and there were several cops on the day of this incident who did not. And this is not something that has happened once or twice; it’s happened far too often. Either they don’t have on a body cam, or they cut off their body cam. That’s a problem for us.

AMY GOODMAN: But there were cops who did have the body cams, is that right? And the police department has that video. Why don’t they release it, as they did in Oklahoma?

CORINE MACK: Well, that’s our question: Why won’t you release it? I understand that under the new House bill, it doesn’t truly go into effect until October 1st. So, if that is what you’re using to say that—you know, as a deterrent for releasing the body cam, that can’t be so, because today is not October the 1st. Yesterday surely wasn’t October the 1st. We would like to see that video.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Bree Newsome, you were at the protest last night. Can you talk about what happened?

BREE NEWSOME: Yes. So, I actually got into town from Illinois late last night, so I got in after some of the—like the protests that were around the Omni Hotel and the incident that happened last night, which police are saying was a civilian-on-civilian shooting, but there’s some dispute about that. I can’t speak to that, because I wasn’t there personally. But I did come in in the later part of the protest, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you describe those protests? What took place? The governor has declared a state of emergency.

BREE NEWSOME: Yes. Well, now, I’m not disputing that there was some vandalism that occurred last night. But just to kind of give you a sense of what the climate and the scene was, I parked my car and walked over there by myself. So sometimes the way that these incidents are depicted on television makes it seem as though the violence is much more widespread than it actually is.

I connected with several people who were down there protesting not just what has happened here in Charlotte, but just the whole institution of policing as it exists in the United States right now and, more specifically, the lack of accountability. There is no system of accountability in place. There is no real oversight in place when it comes to policing. And so, this is a real issue that people have. We are living in a police state. And what we are witnessing across America, whether it’s Ferguson, whether it’s Baltimore, whether it’s Charlotte, is an uprising of those who are most impacted by this police state. That is African Americans. That is Latinos. That is young people and LGBTQ people of color.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Corine Mack, the NAACP is calling for the release of the police video. How has the police department in Charlotte responded to that request?

CORINE MACK: We received the emphatic they would not be released. And several of the clergy in Charlotte went to see the mayor in reference to the video. And we will continue to request those videos. I think it’s so important, as I stated before. To build—to begin to build trust with the citizenry, you have to release those videos. We need to see what you’re seeing. We need to know what you know.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to an activist in Charlotte who’s calling for a boycott of the city. This is B.J. Murphy.

B.J. MURPHY: What we’re standing up for now is our black manhood and our black people, who are being gunned down in the street, and we don’t get no justice. So what I’m calling for and what we’re calling for is an economic boycott of the whole city of Charlotte. Since black lives do not matter for this city, then our black dollars shouldn’t matter. Right? Keep our money in our pocket and let you feel—see, we’re watching a modern-day lynching on social media, on television, and it is affecting the psyche of black people. That’s what you saw last night.

AMY GOODMAN: A representative of Nation of Islam. I’m wondering, Bree Newsome, is that the general feeling? And if you can talk about the climate? I think, according to reports, this year there have been six police killings of civilians [in Charlotte, North Carolina]. And yesterday, when we first had you on, Bree, you mentioned the killing of Jonathan Ferrell several years ago and the acquittal of the officer involved.

BREE NEWSOME: Yes, absolutely. So, what’s happening right now, there is definitely an economic connection, as well, between police brutality and these communities. The communities that are being most impacted by police brutality are communities where the city has divested money for decades, highly segregated communities. Our schools are now as segregated as they were in the '60s. There were reports that came out just yesterday that wages between black and white workers are now at the same gap that they were in 1979. And what's happening is that cities and counties and states are using police as a catch-all for all the, you know, social fallout from their lack of investment in education, in housing, in all of these things. And so that is part of what people are responding to.

One of the things that we see consistently is that the city officials, the state officials, seem to show more concern for property than for life. Oftentimes the cameras and the—you know, and the police and everyone, they don’t show up to show concern until a window gets smashed, until a police cruiser gets jumped on and smashed. And what is demonstrated in that is that money is valued over the lives of residents. And that is largely what people are responding to when they’re calling for economic boycotts. Even the decision to protest in uptown last night, this is clearly a decision to go to one of the economic centers not just of the city, but of the state, to draw attention to what is happening here.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to go back to comments made by a woman who said she witnessed the shooting of Keith Scott. This is [Taheshia] Williams explaining what she saw happened.

TAHESHIA WILLIAMS: The man was sitting in his car, minding his business. I heard his wife yelling down, running down over where they stay, "Don’t do it! Please, don’t!" I looked over here, because I’m looking at where she’s running at, and that’s when I see the man standing there with the gun pointing at Mr.—what’s his name? Mr. Johnson?

REPORTER: Scott.

TAHESHIA WILLIAMS: Mr. Scott—pointed at Mr. Scott. He’s standing there like this, telling them, "I don’t have anything." When they did that, you hear four shots—boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. That man hit the ground. So they—and then they’re just standing there looking at him. I got it on video. I got it on my phone.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was [Taheshia] Williams reporting what she saw on Tuesday. So, Bree Newsome, can you comment on what you think happens next, what ought to happen and what you expect?

BREE NEWSOME: Well, I think there’s two issues. One is the issue of justice in this particular case, and I think that Corine has spoken to that very well. There has to be transparency, first of all. This distrust that exists between the community and the police is completely well-founded, and there’s documented reason for why there is that kind of mistrust.

Then there’s just the larger issue of policing in general and this relationship between the police and the community. And that’s a large part of what people are protesting, as well. It is, as you mentioned, not only about this most recent case with Keith Scott. It’s about Tulsa. It’s about Baton Rouge. It’s about the entire system and the way that people are being systematically funneled into the prison system. As I said yesterday on the program, I think it can very well be argued that slavery in America—chattel slavery ended, yes, but what was once chattel slavery has now evolved into the prison-industrial complex. And a lot of these interactions that are happening between the police and the community are because we’re living within a time and place where a lot of city municipalities are being funded by policing citizens, by locking citizens up, by charging them with fines. And this inevitably leads to encounters that, you know, result in fatalities like this.

AMY GOODMAN: Corine Mack, I have a question for you. Every time there’s a description of an African-American man being killed, the adjective before is either "armed" or "unarmed." In the case of Ahmad Khan Rahami—and a number of people have raised this in Charlotte—he was armed when he was caught. He actually shot the police. They shot back at him, but they didn’t kill him. And as one protester in Charlotte said, because they wanted him for questioning, they wanted to keep him alive. Now, a couple of questions. As if "armed" means that you’re automatically guilty—isn’t North Carolina an open-carry state? Even if, as the police say, though many contend this isn’t true, the—that the victim had a gun?

CORINE MACK: I’ve been consistently bringing that up. We have a Second Amendment right to carry. And so, if, in fact, Mr. Scott had a gun, what was the crime in that? The responsibility of the police was to question him, to confirm that in fact he had a permit for the gun, and allow him to go on his merry way. But every encounter we’re hearing about, when it pertains to an African-American man or woman, they are not allowed to walk away and go home to their families. They are killed. There is a culture in the police department, and they’re taught, that when you engage an African American, expect that engagement to be very different from our white counterparts, that in fact the probability is that they are criminal.

Even more concerning for me is that every time an African American is killed, they’re not the victim. They are continually demonized. And the police that kill them are never held accountable. That’s why you see the frustration. That’s why you see the pain in our community. That’s why you see the anger in our community. That’s why we have daily protests in our communities right now, because enough is enough. We are being killed. We are being lynched. These are the modern-day lynchings. OK?

AMY GOODMAN: And, Bree—

CORINE MACK: We realize that.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Bree Newsome, are there plans for more protests today?

BREE NEWSOME: Oh, yes, absolutely, especially considering what happened last night. I mean, we had another incident. According to some folks, they—folks who were there, including James Tyson—you might remember, he participated in the action with me last year to remove the Confederate flag. He said what he witnessed was someone being shot at close range with a rubber bullet. And I’ve heard that from several others. Now, I can’t speak to that specifically, because I was not present to witness that, but I’m just saying that this—part of what we’re seeing growing in the protest, it’s not—again, it’s not only about the incident that happened Tuesday. It’s also about the continued police response, which continually shows escalation, which continually shows a disregard for the lives of the community members and for how the community members feel.

I mean, people witnessed someone, this man that they see every day, sitting, waiting for his children—they witnessed him be shot and killed. And regardless of what the facts are—we won’t know until the police, you know, release the video—the fact is that there is reason for them to not trust what the police have said. Now, instead of responding in a way that would address the concerns and the way that the community is feeling, the police respond with a SWAT team. So, it’s like a continual escalation and disregard of how people are feeling, and people reach a point where they feel that they have no recourse at all. And so, until that is addressed, the protests will continue to grow, not just here, but around the country.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you both for being with us. Bree Newsome, artist and activist, the woman who climbed the flagpole in South Carolina on the state House grounds and took down the Confederate flag. I also want to thank Corine Mack, president of the NAACP Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch. I’m sure we’ll be speaking to you both again.

CORINE MACK: Thank you for having us.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’re going to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: "American Skin (41 Shots)" by Bruce Springsteen. Actually, he composed and performed that for Amadou Diallo, who was killed in a hail of 41 police bullets in 1999 as he tried to enter his apartment after buying some fast food in New York City. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.


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