Civil rights groups are celebrating a settlement with the city of Charlotte, North Carolina imposing new bans on police dispersing protests, stemming from a 2020 George Floyd demonstration where CS tear gas was used.
The lawsuit brought forth by the groups alleged that police orchestrated an attack on hundreds of protesters who gathered on June 2, 2020 to protest the death of George Floyd the previous month in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Footage from the protest appeared to show protesters being surrounded and chemical weapons being deployed by police, a tactic activists were quick to denounce and claim it was excessive force.
Part of the settlement reached with the city includes new restrictions on how police in the city can handle dispersing protesting crowds. The use of CS tear gas, for instance, will be prohibited. Other revisions to police directives include allotted time being given for protesters to disperse after an order is given, and for that order to be given in both English and Spanish. At least two exits for protesters to disperse also need to be clearly communicated. Other measures include prohibiting pepper balls being aimed at the heads and necks of protesters.
The revisions will be in place for four years and include “a mechanism to enforce violations,” according to a press release announcing the settlement.
Groups behind the lawsuit include the ACLU of North Carolina, the Charlotte Chapter of the NAACP, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
“This agreement is a step in the right direction, but it’s insufficient to reckon with the violence and trauma protesters endured at the hands of police across the state last year,” Kristie Puckett-Williams, statewide manager of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina’s Campaign for Smart Justice, said.
CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings responded to the settlement by saying some policies had already been changed in light of the controversial protest response and he was open to the new changes.
“We are a learning agency and always looking for ways to improve as we owe that to the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and all of those we serve because it is the right thing to do,” he said.
Jennings has been promoting police reform in his position. He even recently announced what has been described as a ‘customer training’ program for police officers, helping to repair the relationship between police and the public. The program, announced last month, is using a consultant who previously worked for companies such as Chick Fil-A and Starbucks.
“That encounter, although it’s a negative incident, does not have to be a negative encounter with that officer,” Jennings said. “When we can leave a positive impression with that interaction … [we] don’t let that person to go away feeling CMPD officers are bad people or are jerks or whatever name you want to come up with.”
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