Charlotte will play host to the Democratic National Convention next year. And with the promise of thousands of extra people in the city, the police are getting a refresher course on crowd control and the use of pepper spray.
According to the Charlotte Observer, Charlotte police policy is that pepper spray (also known as OC or oleoresin capsicum), should only be used when there is an “imminent threat” to the safety of the officer or another. In other words, it can’t be used solely to control an otherwise nonviolent crowd.
The issue of pepper spray policy is particularly worthy of interest given the controversial use of it in the Occupy movement across the country. The photo of a University of California, Davis police officer showering a group of seated and definitely not-resisting protestors with the spray has been cemented into history—with many alternate (and humorous) versions making the rounds too.
Police in New York, Oakland, Seattle, and Denver have all been criticized of their use of pepper spray on protestors, but none so much as the UC-Davis officer, who is now on leave during an investigation.
Charlotte Police Captain Jeff Estes says that the city’s policy would prohibit similar action here, even if protestors refused to disperse in a nonviolent manner. “Their refusal would have to include ‘violence or riotous behavior.”
More than likely, the Democratic National Convention will result in some arrests, as they are notorious for drawing crowds of protestors who feel very strongly about their causes. But because the DNC will also draw a crowd of about 15,000 members of the media, the local police will want to be sure that they act with professionalism and the law on their side or risk worldwide attention for any questionable arrests and treatment.
In 2008, pepper spray was used both at the DNC in Denver and the GOP convention in St. Paul. St. Paul saw 283 people arrested after the police used projectiles, pepper spray, and tear gas to disperse a crowd.
The police have a difficult task to keep the peace and enforce criminal law violations without infringing on the constitutional rights of the people. As Americans, we have the right to peacefully assemble and the DNC and GOP gatherings provide a perfect venue. But with this right to protest comes the risk of arrest when things go awry.
In North Carolina, if you are asked to disperse by a police officer and you fail to do so, you can be arrested and charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor. If you are facing charges of failure to disperse or even disorderly conduct, contact us today to discuss the details of your case and how we might be able to help.