Soldiers stand in Charlotte’s streets amid police shooting protests

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Two people sit on the ground as they protest in front of police in uptown Charlotte, NC  during a protest of the police shooting of Keith Scott, in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Miczek - RTSOVKP

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Soldiers are in the streets of North Carolina’s largest city tonight, after two nights of violence. And the people of Charlotte are waiting to see what happens next, in the streets, and in the investigation of the fatal shooting that started it all.

GOV. PAT MCCRORY (R-N.C.): I firmly believe that we cannot tolerate any types of violence directed toward citizens.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Appeals for calm came from all quarters, from Governor Pat McCrory on down. Hours earlier, he declared a state of emergency, and sent National Guard troops rolling into the city. That followed another night that began with peaceful demonstrations against the police killing of a black man on Tuesday.

But it quickly turned again to violence. Someone started shooting during a march.

(GUNSHOTS)

MAN: Shots fired. Shots fired.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A black protester was critically wounded, and many in the crowd accused the police.

WOMAN: When they shot the guy — they started screaming no justice no peace, and then they just shot him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The crowd retreated before paint balls and tear gas, but small groups smashed windows, looted stores and set fires. Police denied they had shot the protester, but Chief Kerr Putney said today it’s being investigated.

KERR PUTNEY, Charlotte Police Chief: The allegation was made that one of our officers might have been involved. As I said before, guys, we are here to seek the truth. So, we’re investigating that to find the truth, the absolute truth.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The city also faced growing pressure to release video of the fatal shooting that set the protests in motion. Officials say Keith Lamont Scott had a gun and refused to put it down. His family insists he was unarmed.

Chief Putney said today the video raises more questions.

KERR PUTNEY: The video doesn’t give me absolute, definitive visual evidence that — that would confirm that a person is pointing a gun. I didn’t see that in the videos that I reviewed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The chief said he’s trying to arrange to let the family see the video, but he cited state law as a reason not to make it public.

As the day went on, the local district attorney asked the state bureau of investigation to take over the case, while, in Washington, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced she’s sending in a team of peacekeeping experts, and she made an appeal of her own.

LORETTA LYNCH, Attorney General: I urge those responsible fore bring violence to these demonstrations to stop, because you are drowning out the voices of commitment and change and you’re ushering more tragedy and grief in our communities.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in Charlotte, some of the city’s biggest employers, from Bank of America and Wells Fargo to Duke Energy, told workers to stay home.

Meanwhile, National Guard troops fanned out, with hundreds more officers also expected on the streets tonight.

For some further insight into what local officials are doing this evening, I’m joined by Trevor Fuller. He’s the chair at large of the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners. He’s been out in the Charlotte community today, and I spoke with him a short time ago.

Chairman Fuller, thank you for joining us.

How would you describe the situation in Charlotte right now?

TREVOR FULLER, Chair, Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners: Well, there’s no doubt that it’s very tense.

Thank you for having me, Judy.

It’s a tense time in Mecklenburg County, something we haven’t really seen in our lifetimes. And so we are trying our best to keep things under control as best we can.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What are you hearing from people you talk to in the community? And we should say Mecklenburg County essentially encircles the city of Charlotte.

TREVOR FULLER: That’s right. So, Mecklenburg County, we have over a million people who live here, approximately 800,000 of whom live in the city of Charlotte.

And what we’re hearing is a high degree of unrest, uncertainty about what’s going to happen tonight and the next several days. And so what we’re trying to do is to manage — manage the flow of information, to manage our emotional state, and hoping that we can get some calm, so that we can then have the dialogue that we so desperately need.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think it was the right decision to bring in the National Guard to beef up, in effect, the police tonight?

TREVOR FULLER: Well, it’s clear that we didn’t have enough resources last night, and so I felt it was necessary for us to have some additional resources available to us. Even if it’s more than we need, I think we’re better off having the greater resources than not.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What sort of job do you believe the leaders in the community have done so far, the police chief, the mayor, and others?

TREVOR FULLER: Well, I think everyone is working just as hard as they can to try to deal with the situation that really we haven’t dealt with in our community.

We have had big events here, but nothing quite like this. And so I’m a little more forgiving under circumstances that people haven’t dealt with before. I think we’re doing the best we can, in particular our chief of police, who is trying hard under very difficult circumstances to maintain control.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you mean when you say this is something the community has not dealt with before?

TREVOR FULLER: Well, Charlotte is a welcoming place, and we like to deal with our issues by talking through them, by developing plans of action together.

And we are not a community that has this kind of disruption. We are a peaceful community, and we believe it’s better when we are able to talk with each other, even if we have difficult conversations, that it’s better to talk through these things and develop a communal plan of action.

And so to have these kinds of unrest and violence in our community is something that is just not normal for us.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But do you see the justification that apparently many feel for being angry, in that they feel something was done in the shooting of this man who they say didn’t deserve to be shot to death?

TREVOR FULLER: Yes, there is no question that I grieve for the family of Mr. Scott.

I grieve for the people who are in the streets who are protesting. And what I believe they are protesting is a sense of helplessness, a sense of feeling under siege, that the system doesn’t seem to respond to them.

And so that’s why, in Mecklenburg County, I have been talking so much about the challenge of economic opportunity. How can we make sure that prosperity that’s in this county gets shared by all?

I have talked about universal pre-K in Mecklenburg County, the strength of our educational system. So there is no question that the protests, the unrest that we’re seeing has a source, a legitimate source. Our challenge now is, how do we get to the root of that and solve it without violence?

JUDY WOODRUFF: And what do you think the answer to that is?

TREVOR FULLER: Well, the answer is, first, we have to regain calm. We have to regain security, because, my view is, when emotions are high, intelligence is low.

And so we have got to get our community in a place of safety, so that we can have these conversations that we need to have, conversations about who shares an economic prosperity, conversations, difficult conversations about race.

But it’s very difficult to have those conversations when people do not feel safe. And so we first have to establish safety. And then we need to not only have the dialogue, but also have a plan of action and execute on it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Trevor Fuller, who is the Mecklenburg County commission chair, we thank you very much.

TREVOR FULLER: Thank you very much, Judy.

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