Girl delivers powerful message on police killings as Charlotte residents demand mayor’s resignation
Dozens of protesters took their fight for racial equality in policing to the heart of Charlotte’s power structure on Monday, demanding the resignations of the mayor, police chief, and lawmakers in the wake of the police slaying of a black man.
Residents and activists, many of whom have participated in street demonstrations every day since the death of Keith Scott on Tuesday, spoke at a packed city council meeting of frustrations with racial discrimination in the North Carolina city of about 792,800 residents.
Many speakers said city officials were responsible for ensuring police officers treat everyone fairly, and called on Mayor Jennifer Roberts, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney, and members of the city council to resign.
“If you can’t do your job, let’s find someone who can,” said Darcel Chandler, an attorney. “We can’t choose who we want the laws to apply to.”
A child tearfully addressed the meeting, mourning the black residents killed in police encounters.
“It’s a shame that our fathers and mothers are killed and we can’t see them anymore,” said Zianna Oliphant, with tears streaming down her face. “It’s a shame that we have to go to their graveyard and bury them — and we have tears. We shouldn’t have tears. We need our fathers and mothers to be by our side.”
The death of Scott, a 43-year-old father of seven, in Charlotte, and Terence Crutcher in Oklahoma, were the latest cases to raise questions about racial bias in U.S. law enforcement and stoke a national debate on policing ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November.
Police slayings in cities such as New York, Baltimore, Chicago and Ferguson, Missouri, have triggered more than two years of largely peaceful protests punctuated by days of rioting, and given rise to the anti-racism Black Lives Matter movement.
In Charlotte, Mayor Roberts repeatedly called for decorum during three hours of public comments on Monday evening, as speakers went over their sanctioned time-limits, chants of justice erupted from the crowd, and, in one case, a woman called the mayor part of Satan’s family.
“We want to hear what you have to say,” Mayor Roberts told the crowd. “We care very much about hearing you.”
Several speakers said delaying the release of footage collected from police cameras at the scene of the incident sowed more mistrust of law enforcement among the black community.
Authorities have said Scott was armed, though released video footage has offered no clear evidence that he was holding a gun when he was shot.
After public comments, the mayor and a number of council members were repeatedly interrupted as they attempted to respond to the remarks.
At one point, Republican council member Edmund Driggs drew boos when he defended Chief Putney as “an honest man.”
Watch video of Zianna Oliphant’s speech posted online by the Charlotte Observer:
(Reporting by Emily Harris in Charlotte, North Carolina; Editing by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle, Robert Birsel)