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CHARLOTTE, North carolina (AFP) – Protesters took to Charlotte’s streets for a third straight night and defied a midnight curfew in the US city early Friday amid heavy security aimed at preventing more clashes over the fatal police shooting of a black man.
Hundreds marched to the city police station carrying signs saying “Stop killing us” and “Resistance is beautiful,” but the atmosphere was far calmer than the previous two nights.
Several hundred protesters remained on the street following the midnight curfew, but security forces took a hands off approach and did not enforce the restriction.
Pressure was growing on police to release video of the shooting of Mr Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year-old African American, whose killing on Tuesday sparked the unrest.
But members of his family watched the footage on Thursday, raising “more questions than answers,” their lawyers said.
Mr Scott’s death was the latest in a string of police-involved killings of black men that have fueled outrage across the United States.
North Carolina’s governor has declared a state of emergency in Charlotte, and several hundred National Guard troops and highway police officers were deployed to reinforce local police protecting city infrastructure and businesses.
“We are going to be a lot more proactive,” Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney told a news conference. “We made 44 arrests last night because we are not going to tolerate the behavior.”
A protestor shot by a civilian in Wednesday night’s protests died in hospital on Thursday, local media reported.
Protesters held an impromptu vigil on the sidewalk where the man was struck by a bullet from a shooter who remained at large. They lit candles and offered prayers.
Mr Scott was shot and killed in an apartment complex parking lot on Tuesday during an encounter with police officers searching for another person wanted for arrest.
Conflicting versions of what happened – police say Mr Scott was armed with a handgun while his family says he was holding a book – fueled the angry protests.
The authorities have so far refused to release police video of the incident.
No gun is visible in the video, which shows Mr Scott stepping backward when he was shot, one of the lawyers told CNN.
“His hands are down by his side. He is acting calm,” Mr Justin Bamberg said. “You do see something in his hand, but it’s impossible to make out from the video what it is.”
Mr Putney has said a handgun was recovered at the scene, and that no book was found, contrary to the family’s assertion.
The video footage “does not give me absolute definitive visual evidence that would confirm that a person is pointing a gun,” he told CNN.
But the footage indicates the officer identified as having shot Mr Scott – Brentley Vinson, who is also black – was justified, he added. “The officer perceived his failure to comply with commands, failure to drop the weapon and facing the officers as an imminent threat.”