The controversial fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina on 20 September 2016 has once again set off a national debate about the treatment of minorities by the police and has sparked widespread outrage, touching off numerous protests and demonstrations in the streets of Charlotte.
And once again, the Charlotte protests have touched off rumors that such demonstrations are primarily composed of “outside agitators” and “criminals” hailing from other areas (with the implication that the bulk of the protesters were brought to Charlotte from other states by a furtively-run group and/or were paid to take part in demonstrations there):
Charlotte police sergeant tells me 70% of ppl arrested last night had out of state ID: "these are not protestors, these are criminals"
— Erin Burnett (@ErinBurnett) September 22, 2016
But it wasn’t true, as widely reported, that 70% of the protesters arrested in Charlotte had out-of-state IDs. That claim was based on a remark made by Todd Walther, the spokesman for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fraternal Order of Police, during an interview with CNN host Erin Burnett:
I’m not saying all the people, but we’ve got the instigators that are coming in from the outside. They were coming in on buses from out of state. If you go back and look at some of the arrests that were made last night. I can about say probably 70 percent of those had out-of-state IDs. They’re not coming from Charlotte.
However, Walther acknowledged to the Charlotte Observer that he hadn’t actually reviewed police arrest reports (either before or after his CNN interview) and that his comment was based on pure conjecture, saying: “I didn’t quote facts. It’s speculation. That’s all it was.”
Moreover, the Observer noted, their review of arrests made in connection with the Charlotte protests up to that time found that nearly 80% of the arrestees were in fact Charlotte residents, and most of the rest were from other parts of North Carolina:
Of the 43 people arrested late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, 34 — or 79 percent — live in Charlotte, the Observer found. Most of the others live elsewhere in North Carolina, including Albemarle, Gastonia and Greensboro. Three others were arrested Thursday night; of those, two were from Charlotte and the third had not been identified by midafternoon Friday.