Charlotte After Police Shooting: Why All the Unrest

A protester holds up a sign toward U.S. military personnel at the police station during another night of demonstrations over the fatal officer shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 22. Thursday marked the first mostly peaceful night, after two consecutive nights of unrest. Mike Blake/Reuters

Charlotte is North Carolina's largest city, and each night since Tuesday it has been the site of protests, some of them violent, following the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott by Police Officer Brentley Vinson that afternoon. Scott was a 43-year-old black man, a married father of seven children.

His death followed closely upon another fatal shooting of a black man by a police officer, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. An examination of some of Charlotte's demographics may offer insight into why there was a violent reaction to the police shooting there, while protests in Tulsa remained calm.

For one, there is a marked lack of diversity among the 1,882 sworn officers in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, which is separated into 13 patrol divisions. Seventy-five percent of the officers are white and 18 percent are black, according to August 31 data from the department, while American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Hispanic and Latino and Native Hawaiian individuals make up less than 1 percent each. The officer who shot Scott on Tuesday is black.

The department is composed of 86 percent males and 14 percent females.

Nationally, about 27 percent of local police officers were members of a racial or ethnic minority in 2013, compared to 15 percent in 1987, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Since Darren Wilson, a white officer, shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, many law enforcement agencies around the country have reviewed their staff diversity. Ferguson city officials were widely criticized for their lack of diversity in a mostly black city following the shooting of the unarmed black teenager.

Charlotte has an estimated 827,121 residents, according to data from the 2015 American Community Survey (ACS), released last week. There are about 430,475 females and 396,646 males, and the median age is about 34.

About 52 percent of the city's residents are white, while 35 percent are black and 14 percent are Hispanic or Latino, according to ACS data. Other minority groups make up the remainder of the population. Charlotte residents did elect one of the South's first prominent black mayors, Harvey Gantt, in 1983.

The highest percentages of the city's population are within the 25- to 29-year-old and the 30- to 34-year-old age ranges; the lowest percentage of the population is residents ages 80 and older.

Charlotte has a high poverty rate, with an estimated 15.8 percent of the city's population living below the poverty level, compared with the national estimate of 14.7 percent.

Eighty-eight percent of the population has received at least a high school diploma, and nearly 42 percent of Charlotte's residents have a bachelor's degree, at a minimum. The median household income is an estimated $53,919, according to ACS.

Charlotte is home to the Bank of America headquarters and the NASCAR Hall of Fame, as well as the NFL's Carolina Panthers and the NBA's Charlotte Hornets. About 429,365 of its residents ages 16 and older are employed, ACS found. The professions employing the most city residents include educational services and health care and social assistance (an estimated 77,926 jobs); professional, scientific, management and administrative and waste management services positions (60,759); and financial services (59,824).

Following the first two nights of protests, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts set a curfew that begins at midnight and runs through 6 a.m. It will continue each night until the governor lifts the state of emergency he implemented Wednesday after protests turned violent. That night, thousands of demonstrators confronted police. Officers released tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray as demonstrators set fires, threw rocks, smashed windows and vandalized walls and cars. A man shot died Thursday in a Charlotte hospital. The protests were mostly peaceful on Thursday night.

When North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory declared the state of emergency, the National Guard and State Highway Patrol descended on the city to assist in protecting residential and business properties. The governor's office declined to provide Newsweek with the number of troops sent to the city. Instead, his team referred to McCrory's statement during a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

"I don't think it's appropriate for me to give those numbers because, with social media these days and people knowing the logistics so easily of potential public safety, I need you to respect the right of this governor and the right of the police chief to not show all of our cards regarding what safety measures we have in place in the city," he said.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, whose home state is North Carolina, said the DOJ on Thursday sent four members of its Community Relations Service—known as its peacemaker in managing conflicts and tensions—to Charlotte.

The circumstances surrounding Scott's death have been a subject of dispute between law enforcement officials and members of the community. Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney said authorities recovered a firearm from the scene. His statement challenged the Scott family's claims that he was unarmed and was reading a book in his car at the time of the incident Tuesday. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is reviewing Scott's death, and whether charges should be filed against the officer involved.

Putney so far has declined to release the video showing Scott's death; officials maintain the footage holds key evidence in the case.

Scott's death is the latest in a string of recent police-involved incidents with African-American men. These events have raised questions among Americans about racial bias in U.S. law enforcement. On Thursday afternoon, members of the Congressional Black Caucus marched from the Capitol to the DOJ to protest recent police shootings of African-American men. They demanded federal authorities take action to curb the violence. This week, protesters also have gathered in Tulsa to demand the arrest of Betty Shelby, the officer involved in the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old black man and father of four who was killed on September 16. Shelby has been charged with first-degree manslaughter.

On the presidential campaign trail, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are battling to win North Carolina, where they are tied at 41 percent of support among likely voters, according to a New York Times Upshot/Siena College state poll released Thursday.

Trump, the Republican nominee, this week vowed to implement the stop-and-frisk police tactic in troubled black communities across the country. At a campaign stop in Pittsburgh on Thursday, he said law-abiding African-Americans who live in the cities where crime is rampant are the individuals who will suffer the most from recent high-profile incidents.

At a campaign stop Wednesday in Orlando, Florida, Clinton, the Democratic nominee, called the Tulsa and Charlotte police shootings "unbearable." She added: "And it needs to become intolerable."

Sports figures also have spoken out about the recent killings. Beginning in mid-August, the NFL's Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers did not stand during the national anthem before the kickoff. He has vowed to avoid standing during the song until he is satisfied with changes made toward ending what he views as racial oppression in the country. Cam Newton, quarterback of the Panthers, also recently spoke out against police shootings, as officials monitor events to decide whether to allow the Panthers game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday to take place at the stadium in Charlotte, as previously scheduled.

"We just still got to have a clear-eyed vision on both sides," Newton added, "and it starts with everybody holding each other accountable and policing yourselves."