Photo by Pooja Pasupula

Two years ago, an event unfolded that shook Charlotte to its core. Keith Lamont Scott was stopped by police officers when they saw him exit his car with a handgun. Authorities have said that Scott did not comply when officers commanded him to drop his weapon. This led Officer Brentley Vinson to use deadly force against him. Vinson shot and killed Scott in the Village at College Downs apartment complex parking lot, just outside of our very own campus. When the news of the shooting broke, protesting began across Charlotte. Protesters brought signs that said “Stop Killing Us” and “No Peace, No Justice.” Although initially participants wished for a peaceful protest, the crowd turned violent as night fell. People threw rocks and water bottles at police officers. There was also millions of dollars’ worth of damage done to property throughout Charlotte as well as loitering of many businesses. Officers and protesters were injured and one man, Justin Carr, was shot and killed by another civilian during the chaos. Police resulted to drastic measures to control the crowd, including the use of tear gas. The violence lasted for two nights following the incident. The third night of protesting was conducted in a far more peaceful manner.

Thorough investigations were done to determine if Vinson acted lawfully in the situation. In November 2016, the prosecutors working on the case concluded that Vinson’s actions were justified. This ruling angered many of Charlotte’s citizens and came as a disappointment to Scott’s family.

It’s been almost two years since this tragedy occurred, but many others have taken its place. We are stuck in a cycle of discrimination, violence and retaliation that seems nearly impossible to get out of. Although Charlotte has been facing anger and criminality for many years, there does not seem to be any signs of it slowing down. Have we done anything to remedy the cruelty? What can we do to ensure Charlotte’s future is safe? Is there any fixing our community at all?

Charlotte would not be where it is today without our police officers. Many of our officers dedicate their entire lives to protecting us and ensuring that we live in a city that is safe and free of fear. For these heroes, we should be appreciative. Unfortunately, like most things in life, there are exceptions. Aside from this particular case, there have been several other accounts of police violence in Charlotte. Sadly, nothing has changed. Many officials not only shy away from speaking about this tragedy, but they shy away from the issue of police brutality as a whole. It is much easier to try and sweep it under the rug and let people try to forget about it, but there has to be a change. Police brutality is just as prevalent today as it was then. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 800 people die every year while being put under arrest. Government officials should feel compelled to take action against these sort of crimes. If not, we risk living in a community where we are afraid of the people who we are supposed to trust the most.

The riots that broke out were incredibly violent and left over 40 civilians and officers injured. This should be a testament to how broken the communication is between the citizens of Charlotte, law enforcement and government officials. The protests began peacefully. Charlotte citizens wanted to show their respect for Scott as well as voice their discontent toward what happened. Unfortunately, the riots broke out within a few hours, ruining any chance at having an untroubled protest. The police officers who were in Charlotte during the rioting resulted to using great force against civilians. This in itself is a tragedy. The first step in trying to solve any of Charlotte’s problems is through open communication. If the protests had stayed in a civil manner, officers and government officials would have been able to fully understand the meaning behind the outrage and would have been able to fully digest the opinions of Charlotte citizens. The violence was in no way constructive; it just led to more disconnection. Everything from peaceful protests, calling government officials and even writing letters are much better ways to voice concern in a cordial way. I believe that most of our officers and government officials want the best for us and want to hear what we have to say. We just have to find ways to communicate that strengthen the bond between us. This is the only way we can begin to mend our tattered relationship and begin to make progress in solving the issues that plague our city.

This is a time of remembrance, reflection and reform. As we look back at the tragedy that unfolded two years ago, we need to acknowledge that the issues that presented themselves then still occur to this day. What happened to Scott was a devastation. The riots that followed just threw gasoline onto an already blazing fire. There is still animosity between civilians and officers. There is still a stark line between civilians and government officials. There is still disunity between civilians and other civilians. If we really want to start seeing things change in our city, we have to bridge the gap between civilians, officers and government officials. This is the only way we can begin to see an end to all of the terror that has plagued Charlotte for so long.