01:58 - Source: CNN
State of emergency: Charlotte violence erupts

Story highlights

"We're concerned about when something happens, there's no justice," protester Roy Pegram says

UNC Charlotte student: "I realized this was the one time that my voice could potentially be heard"

CNN —  

Roy Pegram minces no words about why he was protesting in Charlotte: Keith Lamont Scott, he says, was yet another black man who police were too quick to shoot.

Police haven’t released dashboard or body-camera video of Tuesday’s shooting, in which a black officer killed Scott, who police say failed to heed officers’ commands to drop a gun in an apartment complex parking lot.

But Pegram is convinced: Police in North Carolina’s largest city acted too quickly. He marched down Charlotte’s streets on Wednesday afternoon with others in peaceful protest before the demonstrations turned violent for a second straight night.

“If he had a weapon or not … all the training that these police officers have, why does it go right to shooting?” Pegram, who is black, told CNN as he walked.

‘I’m here to support the black movement’

Roy Pegram protests in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Wednesday.

Pegram was one of hundreds of people who demonstrated in Charlotte on Tuesday and Wednesday. Violence marred protests on both nights, with police firing tear gas and demonstrators throwing objects and trying to damage vehicles on Wednesday night.

Pegram gestured emphatically as he explained his reasons for protesting.

“I’m here to support the black movement,” he said. “We’re concerned about when something happens, there’s no justice.”

Charlotte’s police chief says evidence and witnesses support officers’ claim that Scott was armed, and that he didn’t obey orders to drop his weapon. But Pegram isn’t convinced that shooting was the only option.

“Instead of trying to talk to with him and trying to get the problem resolved, (police) went right to the trigger,” he said.

“They figure a black man’s involved, they gotta be aggressive,” Pegram said. “You don’t have to come at us like that.”

Cherrell Brown: Caravan from Greensboro

Not all the protesters Wednesday were from Charlotte.

Cherrell Brown said she joined a caravan of about 10 people from Greensboro, a nearly two-hour drive northeast of Charlotte.

Brown, a community organizer with the Charlotte Queer People of Color Collective, said she and the others met with a group of other protesters in Charlotte, aiming to “supply water and general support” to demonstrators.

She said she was on the streets Wednesday night.

“I will say that police were already out in riot gear,” she said. “They came expecting a riot prior to any violence.”

She said she would be in Charlotte again on Thursday, “supporting the people of Charlotte.”

‘Do I care about a few broken windows? No’

"I'm standing right here ... (on) the front line, holding my fist up like a black man, because I want change," Jaleel Liles said.

Jaleel Liles of Charlotte said he was on the streets Wednesday night to peacefully protest not just the shooting, but “to fight for my race – fight for equality.”

“We’ve got a lot of people out here that’s hard-working and everything else, and we still can’t move up in life,” he said. “And tonight it’s shown that we’re getting tired of it.”

As he spoke to CNN, people were sweeping up glass from windows that were broken in the demonstrations. Did he think vandals detracted from the messages from him and other protesters?

No, he said, because the businesses were “basically built off us.”

“So why are y’all taking over? All y’all rich folks and everything – why are y’all taking over and pushing us, the ones who work constantly to feed our families every night, on Section 8, on food stamps? … The homeless ratio is through the window. Do y’all not even care about that? But y’all care about a few broken windows?

“Honestly, do I care about a few broken windows? No. What I care about is these presidents, these politicians, this government, these police, all (need) to change. That’s what I’m standing for tonight.”

“I completely apologize for all this right here, but that ain’t got nothing to do with me,” he said, referring to the vandalism. “I’m standing right here in the middle and the front line, holding my fist up like a black man, because I want change.”

Kristine Slade: ‘I knelt down in front of the policemen’

College student Kristine Slade wanted to speak out against the shooting. So she went into Charlotte’s streets on Tuesday night, knelt before a line of police officers, raised her hands and told them what she thought.

Why do it that way? “I was scared that what I had to say would not be heard,” she said.

A friend took a picture of the moment. Slade, a black student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, posted the picture to her Twitter account.

“I realized this was the one time that my voice could potentially be heard. So I felt like what I did was right, and what I needed to do to make sure that my voice was heard,” she said. “From there, I went on to not necessarily give them a speech, but to talk to them as people.

“Some of the things that I said included things such as thanking those policemen and -women who do understand the fight that we are currently fighting. I want to thank … those who respect us members in the black community, as we respect them, and those who would rather be fighting with us instead of against us.”

Public defender: ‘We can’t lose any more lives, man’

Toussaint Romain was on Charlotte’s streets Wednesday night to put himself between police and the demonstrators.

00:52 - Source: CNN
Public defender: We can't lose any more lives

Romain, a public defender in the city, was in a dress shirt and tie as he inserted himself between the groups, gesturing for protesters to leave as advancing police fired tear gas.

He told CNN’s Boris Sanchez that he was there because he didn’t want to take on any more clients.

“We can’t lose any more lives, man. I’m a public defender. I can’t represent any more people,” he said.

“We don’t need any more people to go to die, no more people to be arrested. We need to take a stand and do it the right way. People are hurting, man. People are upset. People are frustrated. People need leaders. I’m not trying to be that leader. I’m trying to prevent people from being hurt.”

Pastor: ‘This is the city that tear-gassed me’

The Rev. Robin Tanner, chairwoman of the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice, says she was with protesters to be a witness to "the righteous rage."

The Rev. Robin Tanner says she was among about 40 other clergy members who were on the streets Wednesday night to “bear witness, to be a faithful presence to the pain” and “the righteous rage.”

“The night began with such promise and beauty, seeing people frankly come together in our community in protest,” Tanner, chairwoman of the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice, told reporters Thursday at a news conference hosted by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

At one point, a colleague sent her a text message asking her to go to the Epicentre, an uptown entertainment hub where police said a group of demonstrators jumped on cars and damaged property.

Tanner, who is white, said that when she arrived, “something in the air had changed” from the night before, when she and other ministers were out talking with police. Officers in riot gear walked toward protesters.

In an attempt to quell unrest the police eventually released tear gas.

“We could not run out of there fast enough as the canisters were released out into us,” said Tanner, lead minister at Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church. “This is a city that made me a minister. … This is the city where I married my spouse, where I had my children. And now this is the city that tear-gassed me. Last night did not have to end like it ended.”

CNN’s Ed Lavandera, Gustavo Valdes, Emanuella Grinberg, Boris Sanchez, Rosemary Church, Madison Park, Reed Alexander and Yazhou Sun contributed to this report.