Riot police at Old Concord Road on the first night of the Keith Scott protests. Photo via Pooja Pasupula.

There’s been a weird and hard to explain uptick in clown sightings the past few weeks. Late at night, on street corners or in the woods, and calling in threats to schools, a remarkable amount of attention is starting to be given to what the media is calling America’s “clown craze.” Just in time for Halloween, that’s pretty terrifying.

But there’s another menace on the streets you need to be aware of, and I’ve taken it upon myself to make this public service announcement. There’s a group called the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, walking out into the streets of Uptown every night, decked in war gear. They particularly prey upon people of color, queer and transgender youth, and people who march for justice.

They have affiliate groups all around the United States, in almost every city. Clowns are creepy, sure, but these police departments are equipped with military weaponry, and that thanks to your taxes and your government.

CMPD, however, has been especially antagonistic recently. Since they shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott on September 20, they have – according to protesters and clergy on site – killed a protester named Justin Carr with rubber bullets, and framed Raquan Borum for that murder. Other eyewitnesses saw the CMPD run over a protester in an ATV, who they subsequently beat and arrested. They have arrested dozens of peaceful demonstrators, incited riots, and shot tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets at hundreds of people marching for justice.

If a clown attacks you, you can almost certainly bet two things: the attack wasn’t motivated by your skin color, and that clown will be held accountable under the law. But the CMPD is one of just 14 police departments that only killed black people last year. And none of them have been held accountable for it. So this fall, don’t hide from clowns. Get out in the streets and protest, because CMPD is out of control, and Black Lives Matter.

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