CHARLOTTE, NC, September 23, 2016 – An uneasy calm settled over Charlotte, NC when the city woke up Thursday morning, following two nights of turmoil. On the surface it looked like any other day but, on this day, things were different.
After days of chaos in the center city and on Interstate 85, the three primary arteries leading into the uptown business district were unusually traffic free.
Restaurants normally filled with business people were only half full. Some were nearly empty.
Charlotte is a white collar financial district. It is unaccustomed to the racial strife that has become so common in other American cities.
It was the site of the Democratic National Convention in 2012; an event that sent Barack Obama back to the White House for a second term.
It is home to the CIAA tournament, a college basketball tournament for black universities that brings thousands of people into the city each year.
It proudly integrated its school system back in the 70s when other cities faced racial strife and chaos in the streets.
But on this day something changed. Something was different. On this day the gleaming city of glass in the New South was on fire and the glass was in shards on the streets.
The anger began as a peaceful protest that got out of control. Before long the peaceful crowd had become an angry mob and law enforcement officers lined the streets in an effort to disperse the rioters.
As the night dragged on, the mob ebbed and flowed like an amorphous blob. At any given time the violence was confined to roughly a two block area, but as the police moved forward, the protesters retreated and regrouped in other parts of the city.
In the surrounding areas the streets were quiet. Normally active roads were empty, not unlike a scene from a science fiction movie where invaders attack from outer space.
At ten o’clock, except for the main square at Trade and Tryon, once a crossroads between two Indian trading paths, the city was accessible, even by car, if anyone wanted to venture into the fray.
Ironically, one of the best ways to access the city was by driving along Martin Luther King Boulevard.
Other than the frenzy in the eye of the storm, the people on the streets away from the activity appeared to be mostly onlookers who had come to see what was happening. Many of the masked pedestrians were white, and many were walking in groups that comprised a racial mix.
The controversy arose over another incident of a black man being shot and killed by a police officer. One story claims the man was disabled and was only carrying a book when he got out of his vehicle.
The police say there was no evidence of a book and that the “book” was actually a gun. Witnesses corroborated the story, and a video does exist, but as this is being written, that video has not been released.
Whatever the truth may be, eventually the full story will come out. That does not, however, justify knee-jerk over-reaction that destroys the businesses of others just to make your voice be heard.
These kinds of incidents were not supposed to happen with a black president in the White House. Barack Obama came into office promising hope, unity and cooperation. Instead racial tensions in the United States have increased and they are so commonplace in the president’s home city of Chicago that the daily body count is barely acknowledged.
There was a new twist in Charlotte, because the shooter was a black man who killed another black victim. Previously the chaos elsewhere was caused because the shooters were white, though there were other black cops on the scene.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who served 7 terms as the mayor of the city, have both been embroiled in the HB2 controversy for several months. The LGBT issue has cost the state billions in revenue with loss of key sporting events like the NBA All-Star Game and the ACC Tournament.
As full disclosure, two of the police officers involved in quelling the uptown violence in Charlotte are extended members of my own family. Both are dedicated family men who have been in law enforcement for many years. They are not, and never will be, the demons that are being portrayed by those who they may one day be called upon to protect.
The Minnesota Vikings will play in Charlotte on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers quarterback, Cam Newton, has become an icon in the city. He is also black, as is the owner of the Charlotte Hornets basketball team, Michael Jordan.
It will be interesting to see how the city responds now that it is in the glaring negative spotlight of our times.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world.
Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com).
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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