Protesters have massed on Charlotte’s streets for a third night in the latest sign of mounting pressure for police to release video that could resolve wildly different accounts of the fatal shooting of a black man.
Demonstrators chanted “release the tape” and “we want the tape” while briefly blocking an intersection near the Bank of America headquarters and later climbing the steps in front of the city government centre.
Later, several dozen demonstrators climbed on to an interstate highway through the North Carolina city, but they were pushed back by police in riot gear.
But the protests lacked the violence and property damage of previous nights and a midnight curfew imposed by the mayor aimed to add a firm stopping point for the demonstrations.
Police ranks were boosted by members of the National Guard carrying rifles and guarding office buildings against the threat of property damage.
So far, police have resisted releasing police dashcam and body camera footage of the death of 43-year-old Keith Scott earlier this week.
His family was shown the footage on Thursday and demanded that police release it to the public. The family’s lawyer said he could not tell whether Mr Scott was holding a gun.
But Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief Kerr Putney said earlier that releasing the footage of Mr Scott’s killing could undermine the investigation. He said the video would be made public when he believed there was a “compelling reason” to do so.
“You shouldn’t expect it to be released,” Mr Putney said. “I’m not going to jeopardise the investigation.”
Charlotte mayor Jennifer Roberts waited until Thursday’s protests were under way for more than an hour before signing documents for the city-wide curfew that runs from midnight to 6am.
In an interview with CNN, Ms Roberts said she thought the curfew was the most effective way to maintain peace in the city.
Charlotte is the latest US city to be shaken by protests and recriminations over the death of a black man at the hands of police, a list that includes Baltimore, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York and Ferguson, Missouri.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, prosecutors charged a white officer with manslaughter for killing an unarmed black man on a city street last week.
In Charlotte, scores of rioters attacked reporters and others, set fires and smashed windows of hotels, office buildings and restaurants in the city centre on Wednesday night. The NASCAR Hall of Fame was among the places damaged.
Forty-four people were arrested after Wednesday’s protests and one protester who was shot died in hospital on Thursday.
City officials said police did not shoot the man and no arrests have been made over 26-year-old Justin Carr’s death.
Police have said that Mr Scott was shot on Tuesday by a black officer after he disregarded loud, repeated warnings to drop his gun. Neighbours, though, have said he was holding only a book. The police chief said a gun was found next to the dead man and there was no book.
Mr Putney said he had seen the video and it did not contain “absolute, definitive evidence that would confirm that a person was pointing a gun”. But he added: “When taken in the totality of all the other evidence, it supports what we said.”
Justin Bamberg, a lawyer for Mr Scott’s family, who watched the video with the man’s relatives, said Mr Scott gets out of his vehicle calmly.
“While police did give him several commands, he did not aggressively approach them or raise his hands at members of law enforcement at any time. It is impossible to discern from the videos what, if anything, Mr. Scott is holding in his hands,” Mr Bamberg said.
Mr Scott was shot as he walked slowly backwards with his hands by his side, Mr Bamberg said.
He said Mr Scott’s wife saw him get shot “and that’s something she will never, ever forget”.
When asked by CNN whether she saw Mr Scott holding a gun, Ms Roberts, who also watched the footage of the shooting, said: “It is not a very clear picture and the gun in question is a small gun. And it was not easy to see … so it is ambiguous.”
Experts who track shootings by police noted that the release of videos can often quell protest violence and that the footage sometimes shows that events unfolded differently than the official account.
“What we’ve seen in too many situations now is that the videos tell the truth and the police who were involved in the shooting tell lies,” said Randolph McLaughlin, a professor at Pace University School of Law.
He said it was “irresponsible” of police not to release the video immediately.
After the midnight curfew began, dozens of protesters continued to march and chant in the city’s business district, but police said they did not plan to forcibly remove people as long as the situation remained peaceful.
Captain Mike Campagna said the curfew was a tool the police could use if it became necessary, but they hoped that would not be the case.