The app showing the reality of police brutality protests in America

A CMPD officer, center, speaks with protesters in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Image: Jeff Siner/The Charlotte Observer via AP

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina Hadassah Falby was sitting at home on Wednesday night, but he was wracked with fear as he stared at what was happening on the screen in front of him.

Jaleesa Pauling, his wife, was live streaming on Facebook from Charlotte amid the chaos following the moments after a demonstrator was fatally shot.

Pauling likes to blog, but she doesn’t often turn on a camera. “I went live on Facebook because I wanted people to see,” she said. “I literally couldn’t believe my eyes.”

“I went live on Facebook because I wanted people to see.”

She kept her stream rolling for 90 minutes as police fired tear gas into crowds and some protesters laid into the glassy fronts of downtown buildings. Soon, 100 people were watching. Her dad called to ask how she was and what was going on. Her brother called, too. And on Thursday, Falby said watching his wife’s livestream convinced him to join the hundreds who marched for hours in the middle of the city.

“I was home watching her live feed thinking, ‘oh my god, are you OK?'” he said. “But it hit me that when I have kids, I want to tell them I did it.”

Pauling and Falby were just two of hundreds of protesters who marched in Charlotte on Thursday night into Friday morning, demonstrating against Tuesday’s shooting of a black man named Keith Scott. Many of those protesters illuminated the night with glowing phones raised above their head, livestreaming and narrating their experience to Facebook friends and whoever else found their feed.

Demonstrators protest Tuesday’s fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sept. 21.

Image: AP Photo/Chuck Burton

Demonstrators say Scott, 43, was reading a book in his car as he always does while waiting to pick up his son from the school bus stop. Police say an officer fired after Scott got out of his car with a gun.

Protesters demanded the release of video from that shooting as well as the release of video from another a fatal shooting that took place in the middle of Wednesday’s protest. Police initially said a civilian had fired the shot, then said they weren’t sure.

That type of ambiguity led many demonstrators to raise their phones high and hit record on Thursday, providing dozens of counterpoints to the huge shoulder-mounted cameras of news crews who followed them throughout the night.

“I feel like everyone in the media has been portraying us as violent,” said Doraza Sings, a Charlotte resident. “They’re showing all the negative things. I want to show the positive.”

Sean Baldwin, another Charlotte resident, was livestreaming as a witness, but also so that he had witnesses himself.

Protesters shout as they march downtown on the third night of protests in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sept. 22.

Image: AP Photo/Chuck Burton

“It gives you a record of what’s going on in case something happens to you,” he said. “You also have witnesses. You can tell what happened without letting someone else tell your story.”

A huge part of the reason people across the country now know Keith Scott’s name is because black people in Charlotte pulled out their phones in the immediate aftermath and told the story themselves.

Scott’s daughter, Lyric, livestreamed for hours after her father got shot, walking around police yellow tape as she slowly realized her dad wasn’t coming back. The morning after the shooting, her video had around 690,000 views. The Facebook version has since been disabled, but a version on YouTube has wracked up nearly 350,000 views as of this writing.

Warning: Strong language.

Another man in the area turned on his phone during the day as residents gathered following the shooting and kept recording as night fell and the gathering turned into a protest that took over part of a highway.

The following morning, that livestream had around 1.9 million views.

Live video showed its importance again on Friday when The New York Times published video shot by Rakeyia Scott, Keith’s wife, in the moments before and after he was shot.

Rakeyia Scott pleads with police not to shoot her husband, insisting he has no weapon.

Warning: This video contains graphic footage some viewers may find disturbing.

And Charlotte isn’t the first place where a livestream following a police shooting has thrown the shooting into national spotlight.

Diamond Reynolds was riding in a car with her fianc, Philando Castille, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, on July 6 when they were pulled over by a police officer for a traffic stop. Moments later, Reynolds said Castille had let the officer know he had a firearm on him, which he was legally licensed to carry. But before Castille could provide documentation, Reynolds said the officer shot him to death.

Reynolds immediately turned on her phone. She narrated what was happening in front of her as Castille bled to death and captured the frantic police response. Her video showed the powerful role livestreaming has started to play in events where the truth can be distorted.

Warning: This video contains graphic footage some viewers may find disturbing.

Protesters rallied around what they saw in that video, and in Charlotte, too, some demonstrators have been inspired to march because of what they’ve seen in the livestreams of marchers before them.

“I feel like the more people that come supporting, the more our voice is heard, the more that we get answers,” said Bam Springs, a 26-year-old Charlotte resident. He spent Wednesday night watching videos of the protest, and decided to see for himself on Thursday. “I felt like I should join the group, too. Let my voice be heard.”

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