Mayor Roberts Choked, through her decisions to decline Governor Pat McCrory’s offer of assistance from the National Guard & State Highway Patrol Troopers and to not declare a curfew after Tuesday night, she aided and abetted a riot
From The Charlotte Observer by Keith Larson, September 28, 2016
The furious crowd made up largely of African-American citizens packed Charlotte’s City Council chambers and for two hours filled the air with pointed calls for the resignation of the city’s liberal Democrat mayor and African-American police chief.
Not your typical script or casting.
Across the country a few days earlier, headlines screamed:
“Blood Runs in Charlotte” – Washington Post
“More Violence in Charlotte After Shootings” – New York Times
“Tensions Explode in Charlotte” – USA Today
Not your typical headlines. At least not about Charlotte.
How we got here cannot be adequately answered in this space, but here are a few key elements.
At the core are Charlotte police officers and a man named Keith Lamont Scott. The officers were looking to serve an arrest warrant near an apartment complex.
They spotted Scott in a truck rolling a marijuana blunt but paid him little mind until they saw a gun. A pinch of pot, cops may overlook. A gun and marijuana where kids are headed home from school, they can’t. Moments later Mr. Scott was dead.
Witnesses, social and traditional news media, activist groups, and even the deceased man’s family all played their now too-familiar parts in spreading fact and fiction after an officer-involved shooting. Protesters took to the streets Tuesday night. Most were peaceful, but there were enough purely opportunistic punks and perpetrators on Wednesday to turn uptown from the scene of a demonstration and civil disobedience into one of vandalism, looting, and violence.
CMPD Chief Kerr Putney was calm and controlled Wednesday morning. He told me of the “violent, aggressive, destructive … riotous behavior” that had resulted in 16 police officers injured and substantial property damaged. I asked what he was expecting for Wednesday night.
“I’m expecting to make sure we’re prepared for whatever we see.”
Enter Charlotte’s Mayor. Jennifer Roberts was a startled, stumbling embodiment of confusion from the outset; wringing her hands rather than clearing her head and leading with confidence.
Having seen all that happened Tuesday night – when CMPD “couldn’t be as responsive as needed” because “resources were tied up,” according to the Chief – Roberts still declined an offer from Governor Pat McCrory of assistance from the National Guard and State Highway Patrol. She deferred declaring a curfew.
Roberts choked. Wednesday night brought Tuesday’s sequel. While editors at the Washington Post, New York Times, and USA Today were watching their TVs and writing those Thursday headlines, the Chief went ahead and reached out to McCrory for help.
Roberts stayed low-key for days. This Tuesday, she wrote in the Observer: “The lack of transparency and communication about the timing of the investigation and release of the video footage was not acceptable.” Sounds like she’s driving a bus and aiming it at the Chief.
Putney did an admirable job managing events uptown after the shooting but is not without fault. He shot himself in the foot by following Charlotte GuvCo’s tradition of secrecy: He would not release the videos of the shooting. Putney said he believes “in transparency” but not “full transparency.” Huh? He finally released the tapes but only after being backed into a corner by Mr. Scott’s widow releasing a video of her own.
Mayor Roberts is a different story. Through her decisions to not secure for the city the additional resources it needed and to not call a curfew Wednesday night, she aided and abetted a riot. And she helped a long-time Charlotte dream come true.
To become a city known to the country by its first name only.