Q&A: Protests in Charlotte, North Carolina

The killing of a black man by police in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the US has sparked protests and inflamed racial tensions in a city that seemed to have steered clear of the troubles that have engulfed other places.

It’s a complex matter, involving multiple versions of the same story and rising tensions.

We delve into the detail of the events in Charlotte to try to make sense of it all.

What sparked the protests?

Keith Lamont Scott, 43, was shot dead by a policeman on Tuesday at The Village at College Downs apartment complex in Charlotte. Police say he had a gun, but neighbours and his family say he had only a book as he waited for his son to leave the school bus.

A woman who identified herself as Scott’s daughter began a Facebook Live from the scene, recording the community confronting police after the incident.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief Kerr Putney said officers were serving arrest warrants on another person when they saw Scott get out of a vehicle with a handgun.

According to Putney, a black plain-clothes officer in a vest badged “Police” shot Scott after the officer and other uniformed members of the force made “loud, clear” demands that he drop the gun.

The three uniformed officers had body cameras but the plain-clothes officer did not, police said.

The police have so far refused to release any video of the incident, meaning two different narratives have emerged. Police say Scott disregarded repeated demands to drop his gun, while neighbourhood residents say he was holding a book, not a weapon, as he waited for his son to get off the school bus.

The plain-clothes officer, identified as Brently Vinson, a member of the department for two years, has been placed on leave, standard procedure in such cases.

How have the protests developed?

The protests began as a prayer vigil on Wednesday, but a group broke off and marched through the city centre to protest against the killing.

During this protest, a man was shot and and is now fighting for his life in hospital, which escalated tensions leading to tear gas being deployed as protesters marched. City officials have said it was not the police who fired the shot.

Paramedics said two other people and six police officers suffered minor injuries.

Students at the University of North Carolina held a vigil by laying on the floor of the student union.

How is the local government dealing with the situation?

The governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory, declared a state of emergency in Charlotte as protests turned violent for a second night.

McCrory said he was also sending the National Guard to Charlotte as scattered groups of protesters continued to attack reporters and others, break windows and start fires.

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