Though Charlotte is known as the Queen City – with a gleaming downtown, state-of-the-art stadiums, sparkling new mass transit, and the nation’s banking capital – recent events have thrust the city’s dark side into the spotlight within a matter of days.
Outside the city’s core are neighborhoods like that of the late Keith Scott, the Black man recently killed by police. In such places, residents are tired of seeing police only when officers sweep in to make arrests. Their fresh memory of other Blacks killed by police officers who did not face punishment has set off protests that have consumed the city.
Protests in Charlotte’s center left one protester dead, and some witnesses reportedly said it was at the hands of a police officer agitating a relatively peaceful crowd. As anger at Scott’s death made its way downtown, it reached riot-level as the world looked on.
To the protesters, home is a world away from downtown skyscrapers. Though Charlotte doesn’t have many stereotypical slums, low-rent apartment complexes and condominiums are nestled behind tree-lined roads off the main thoroughfares. That’s the kind of place where Scott lived. Tracy McLean lives in the condominium complex just down the road. She says she witnessed Scott’s murder, and she believes the police are engaged in a shameful cover-up. McLean is among several witnesses, including Scott’s wife, whose first-hand accounts are not being widely shown by mainstream media.
“The real story is not being told,” McLean said to a group of reporters. “They didn’t do CPR on the man right after he got shot … two of the officers went straight into his vehicle.”
Contrary to the story initially put forth by the police, McLean hints that the police may have planted a gun on the scene, and she says the identity of the real killer is being concealed.
“It was not a Black officer who shot him,” said McLean. “It was a White officer who … had on a red shirt … you wouldn’t know he was a police officer.”
She said teams of police frequently come to the neighborhoods full of Black and Latino families in a show of force, looking for suspects they often don’t find.
“The fear needs to be dispelled,” McLean said. “It’s fear, and it’s ridiculous fear.”
She said she and her neighbors were subject to an officer’s fearful threats at the scene of the crime as they asked officers whether they were going to administer CPR on Scott.
“He said if you get any closer, you’re going to get shot,” McLean recalled.
Hugh McColl, the former CEO of Bank of America who was the most public face of growth putting Charlotte on the world’s stage over the past three decades, is concerned about the growing economic disparity and recent violence.
“Black lives do matter. All lives matter. Our children’s lives matter, and their future matters a great deal,” McColl said.
A similar message comes from the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP.
“The type of riots we are seeing in Charlotte is a systemic response for people who are drowning in injustice,” he said.