Eritrean exiles clash in Charlotte, USA

2024-02-28 17:58:45 Written by  Martin Plaut Published in English Articles Read 469 times

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Martin Plaut

February 19

Several people arrested, tractor-trailer lit aflame during protest against Eritrean government supporters, Charlotte police say

CMPD said the protest had civil rights issues at the core. Protesters dispersed around 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

Author: Matthew Ablon (WCNC)

Published: 3:44 PM EST February 17, 2024

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A protest that closed off a section of a Charlotte street Saturday resulted in several arrests, and it was centered on global human rights issues in another country.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department confirmed in a post to X the protest was being held on private property on Monroe Road. Officers said up to 200 people were present in what was described as a civil rights protest regarding a cultural festival. 

A CNC Charlotte crew notes some protesters were standing outside the Morris Costumes shop earlier in the afternoon.

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CMPD deemed the protest as unlawful since it happened on private property and that Morris Road was closed down from McAlway Drive to Alliance Drive. Officers said protesters have been told to leave and that anyone remaining could be subject to arrest.

The department later said officers used pepper spray shortly after 3 p.m. to get protestors out of the street. CMPD said the spray hit some protestors as well as some officers who were treated on the scene.

Around 4 p.m., CMPD said officers had arrested four people. Less than an hour later, the inbound lanes of Monroe Road had been reopened. The gathering was still ongoing, however.

Later in the evening, CMPD said three men were charged with impeding traffic, while a woman was charged with impeding traffic, citing a riot, and assault on a government official. She reportedly also had a firearm seized from her.

CMPD also said another firearm was seized and that three further protestors were arrested. Dispersal orders were given again as the department said the protesters were blocking the entrance to the business hosting the event.

Just after 7:30 p.m., CMPD said its Civil Emergency Unit was activated, but it was reportedly met with aggression from crowds. The department said it was working to contain the scene.

Around 8:15 p.m., police said crowds had set a tractor-trailer on fire, which was quickly doused by the Charlotte Fire Department. Another person was also arrested, bringing the total to eight.

The department later said officers used pepper spray shortly after 3 p.m. to get protestors out of the street. CMPD said the spray hit some protestors as well as some officers who were treated on the scene.

Around 4 p.m., CMPD said officers had arrested four people. Less than an hour later, the inbound lanes of Monroe Road had been reopened. The gathering was still ongoing, however.

Later in the evening, CMPD said three men were charged with impeding traffic, while a woman was charged with impeding traffic, citing a riot, and assault on a government official. She reportedly also had a firearm seized from her.

CMPD also said another firearm was seized and that three further protestors were arrested. Dispersal orders were given again as the department said the protesters were blocking the entrance to the business hosting the event.

Just after 7:30 p.m., CMPD said its Civil Emergency Unit was activated, but it was reportedly met with aggression from crowds. The department said it was working to contain the scene.

CMPD would later share that around 9:30 p.m. the protesters dispersed and that officers were clearing the scene. A press conference was held shortly after where more details were shared.

Officers said they were called to a business around noon because a group of people were blocking the entrance to it to try and prevent an event from happening. While the group of people putting on the event was eventually able to get in side, the protesting group remained outside for several hours. CMPD said some protesters threw things like sticks and bottles at officers as well.

Eventually, CMPD was able to negotiate with both the group hosting the event and the protesters. The event group was able to leave and protesters eventually dispersed.

During the news briefing Saturday evening, CMPD said they were unaware beforehand that a protest had been planned nor were they in the loop about the event. A spokesperson said they had made contacts during the incident both with protesters and the group hosting the event and would be doing follow-up work.

Vinroy Reid, who owns a business near the scene, told WCNC Charlotte the scene involved two groups of people. The group hosting the event was apparently supportive of the current Eritrean government, while the protesters were opposed.

Eritrea is located in eastern Africa, south of Saudi Arabia and on the Red Sea. The current president is Isaias Afwerki, who has held office since 1993.

Afwerki's government has been accused of human rights abuses in the past by non-governmental organizations such as Human Rights Watch, who 

in 2023 said the Eritrean government represses citizens by imposing restrictions on freedom of expression, opinion, and faith, among others. HRW notes Afwerki closed all independent newspapers in 2001 and arrested 10 journalists who, as of 2023, have been held incommunicado. HRW also reports that elections have not been held since Afwerki assumed the presidency in 1993, when Eritrea also gained independence from Ethiopia.

 

Last modified on Wednesday, 28 February 2024 19:10