x

Charlotte's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Charlotte, North Carolina | WCNC.com

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles recalls the time her son was arrested "because he had dreadlocks"

Lyles told WCNC Charlotte's Fred Shropshire Friday night about the arrest she described as a racially-driven case of misidentification.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As violent protests equipped Friday night in Charlotte over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles talked with WCNC Charlotte's Fred Shropshire about life as a black mother.

"It is very difficult to have to sit down with your black son and say, 'Something is going on here. I need you to be extra careful right now. I need you to understand how to interact with the police department," she said during the phone call with WCNC Charlotte. "That's just reality for many of us."

Years earlier, her now grownup son was arrested while attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

"Honestly, even talking about it now, sends chills through my body," she explained.

Lyles said her son had been wrongfully identified as the suspect because of his appearance.

"My son, when he was at school in Chapel Hill, was arrested for an armed robbery because he had dreadlocks primarily," she recalled. "And he was identified by the person who said he had been robbing him. And what saved him was a credit card receipt that showed he had signed a credit card in a different location."

Lyles had called into WCNC Charlotte as a protest in northwest Charlotte turned violent Friday night.

What had started as a peaceful demonstration following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, escalated into violence by nightfall.

Several people were arrested after the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department tried to disperse the crowd.

CMPD said they deemed the gathering unlawful after rocks were thrown at officers and police vehicles were damaged.

RELATED: Charlotte city councilman Braxton Winston arrested during protests

RELATED: Charlotte protesters clash with police

RELATED: George Floyd protests spread coast-to-coast as violence ramps up

With more protests scheduled for the weekend, Lyles is hopeful safe demonstrations can return.

"Find a way where they can all be heard, and we can do it in a way where we all respect each other," she said. "Tomorrow morning, we start with talking to everyone we can - the neighborhoods, the faith leaders, the activist communities - to say: This is how we can protest," she explained.  "The rules of engagement start off with respecting people where they are."

Lyles was asked about the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department's actions Friday night versus those of 2016, where the city saw protesting and rioting after the officer-involved shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.

"Our police department has changed. De-escalation training. Understanding how important it is to engage with the community," she said. "CMPD tried very hard to not create the image they may have had in past years."

RELATED VIDEO: Former Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts joins protesters Friday and said "We're tired of seeing these killings."

Lyles was not shy about her emotions.

"How painful it was to watch," Lyles said about the video showing a now-former Minneapolis Police Department officer restraining Lloyd by applying his knee to Lloyd's neck. 

"How much numbness it has given us," Lyles said. "I understand that [numbness]. You cannot live in this country today and not understand."