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'We're Saying No to Dying': A Charlotte Protester on the Fight for Justice

Last night, hundreds gathered to protest the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott. One protester describes the scene in Charlotte and emphasizes what they're fighting for.
September 22, 2016, 8:31pm
Photo via Getty

Last night, for the second night in a row, hundreds of people took to the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina, to protest the murder of Keith Lamont Scott, who was shot by police on Tuesday afternoon.

Police claim Scott, a 43-year-old father of seven, was holding a gun, which they say he refused to drop. According to eyewitnesses and family members, he was carrying a book. Although dash-cam and body camera footage could potentially shed light on what truly took place, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief Kerr Putney said today that the police department would not be releasing any video of the shooting. He further warned that the video doesn't offer "definitive, visual evidence that would confirm that a person is pointing a gun," but insisted the "totality of all the other evidence" backs up the police's narrative.

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Gloria Merriweather, a 24-year-old member of Charlotte Queer and Trans People of Color Collective who participated in last night's protest, says she and other community organizers were out last night in downtown Charlotte to show the city that "people are righteously indignant."

"We're saying no to dying. We're saying no to our children continuing to be hungry, murdered by police. We're saying no to poor educational resources in our community," she tells Broadly. "Essentially, we're advocating for equitable treatment from our government and the people in power."

The fight to have their message heard, though, is arduous. Merriweather's voice cracks during our phone conversation. She says it's from the tear gas and the crying.

Late last night, Gov. Pat McCrory's office declared a state of emergency following gunfire that left a protester seriously wounded. (Initially, representatives of the city of Charlotte tweeted that a civilian had been fatally shot by another civilian; later, they said that the person was in critical condition. WCNC reported this afternoon that the protester is "technically brain dead.") Chief Putney has said that police are reviewing video footage to determine who shot him.

Merriweather was close by when the shooting happened, and says she hasn't been able to sleep since. While it's unclear where the bullet came from, Merriweather says that law enforcement prevented the victim from receiving immediate medical assistance. "SWAT was keeping medics from him, and we were screaming, begging for help," she says, adding that she and others moved the victim behind the line of officers and then were pushed out. "It was horrific. A lot of us had to get blood wiped off us."

When asked about the reports of damage, including smashed windows at various businesses and venues, Meriweather responds, "Those aren't people destroying windows. These are people destroying symbols of capitalism… We don't even want these buildings to stand if we can't stand, if we aren't living."

More protests are planned for tonight. Members of the National Guard and State Highway Patrol will be supporting local police in an effort to quell any potential violence. Merriweather says she and other organizers are trying to find the best ways to continue to make their voices heard, but also to "move in ways that keep us protected."

"It [was] like a war zone yesterday," she says, "where one side is completely and heavily armed, and the other is just demanding justice."