What we should really call the riots in Charlotte

Mayhem in another American city continues as pushers of false narratives infect the national narrative and invade vulnerable cities to commit acts of terror on the streets

Last night — for the second night in a row — an American city was ravaged by rioting, looting, and other forms of violence following a controversial officer-involved shooting. 

Charlotte (N.C.) joined an unfortunate fraternity of cities whose members include Baltimore, Cleveland, and Ferguson. In those cities, peaceful protest turned into violent riots, and in all cases, it was later discovered that the originally offending police use of force was justified. In each of these cities, rioters were fueled by emotions and false narratives — not facts — and driven by interlopers with hidden agendas. 

As law enforcement professionals, let’s examine the facts of the case as we presently know them and come to some well-reasoned conclusions. Then, let’s give some attention to the criminality of what’s happened in the aftermath.

During the rioting in Charlotte, the freeway encircling the city — I-277 — became a combat zone, with innocent motorists targeted by angry mobs.
During the rioting in Charlotte, the freeway encircling the city — I-277 — became a combat zone, with innocent motorists targeted by angry mobs. (AP Image)

Just the facts, please …
A black man named Keith Lamont Scott — reportedly armed with a handgun — refused to comply with lawful orders of a police officer. Scott was given multiple warnings by the police officers to drop his weapon. An officer, also a black man, shot the noncompliant subject. The subject was taken to a hospital where he was given potentially lifesaving care, but unfortunately he subsequently expired. 

The following day, Chief Kerr Putney (a black man) issued statements to the media urging calm among his city’s residents. Chief Putney implored citizens to remain peaceful. Hours later, all hell broke loose. A dozen officers were injured by rocks, bottles, and other objects hurled by protesters who believed that the man killed in that OIS was armed only with a book. Rioters set fires and destroyed property. At least three reporters were hurt. A truck was set ablaze. 

The very next night, the same scene of mayhem unfolded. The freeway encircling the city — the I-277 — became a combat zone, with innocent motorists targeted by angry mobs. At least one citizen was left in critical condition after being shot in the head by another citizen. Some reports indicated that another six officers were wounded during the second night of violence. 

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency, ordering the National Guard to lock down his state’s most populous city. Hopefully, this will end the violence in Charlotte — only time will tell. 

The definition of terrorism
At the time of this writing, we don’t fully know the extent to which the City of Charlotte has been damaged — but damaged it most certainly has been. What we do know is that peaceful protest ended when a small fraction of the protesters stopped practicing their First Amendment right to free speech and peaceable assembly and turned to committing criminal acts. 

Spray painting the sides of buildings is vandalism. Lighting fires is arson. Looting the local Wal-Mart is burglary. Menacing drivers on a freeway is assault. Launching rocks, bottles, and other projectiles at police is battery. Shooting someone in the head is attempted murder. 

And all of it is terrorism. 

Yes, terrorism. Remember that the FBI defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

Further, recall that Title 22 of the U.S. Code, Section 2656f(d) defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.” 

Both definitions share a common theme: the use of force intended to influence or instigate a course of action that furthers a political or social goal. 

The First Amendment ensures that Congress shall make no law “abridging the freedom of speech” or “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” 

Nowhere in the Constitution of the United States does it indicate that citizens may terrorize a city with violence — or the threat of violence — for political or social goals.

Looking toward the future
At the time of this writing, we don’t know the totality of the circumstances during the event that left Keith Lamont Scott deceased. What we do know is that even the most thorough and complete investigation into his death is likely to prove unsatisfactory to a certain segment of citizens who will travel from afar to instigate violence in furtherance of their agendas. 

We also know that the rioters are getting more sophisticated in their tactics. In contrast to the protests following Ferguson, the protesters in Charlotte appeared to be better prepared to deal with the tear gas and flash-bangs deployed by police. They were essentially undeterred by those efforts to disperse the unruly crowd. Further, the rioters used swarming techniques, moving back and forth between different locations, keeping police off balance. 

Let’s all hope that the local law enforcement officers, now partnered with the North Carolina National Guard, can keep the peace on the streets of Charlotte tonight and for the days and weeks to come. 

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