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I cleaned off the blood...it was time to leave

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Editor’s note: Jessica Britton, 29, is a Waxhaw photographer who has shot assignments for The Lancaster News since 2012. She was at ground zero Wednesday night during the worst of Uptown Charlotte’s racial unrest. Seldom has the nation’s attention focused on a place so close to us.

Jessica Britton
For The Lancaster News

As the night started, I was photographing a large group gathering near Tryon Street. Many kids in the crowd, different age groups, backgrounds and colors: peaceful and respectful.
Later police dressed in black riot uniforms began gathering at the Epicenter and started to create barriers. This enraged the younger people in the crowd.
The police took some hits pretty well. I saw them slapped around, spit on, cursed at. Not once did they move or say a word.
After a while the crowd broke through the police line and made their way back up to the middle of Uptown. That’s when things got bad.
A car ran a red light and nearly killed a boy on his bike. A fight broke out, but the cops just stood watching. The fighting stopped when a single gunshot fired from about 30 feet away.
I ran over to where bike cops were blocking a large pool of blood while the protesters screamed, “Why are you killing us!” This was next to the Omni Hotel, which was completely blocked by riot police.
Tear gas was released, and I had to run for cover. I pulled my shirt over my face and went closer to get more images. People started to break the windows of restaurants and cars. Other protesters just ran away or screamed for the vandalizing to stop.
A girl drenched in blood ran over to me, grabbed my camera and told me to leave or stand with them. Then she wiped her blood down my arm and said, “Now you will remember.”
More tear gas was released and I couldn’t breathe, so I went into the Bank of America building, which had been broken into. Founder’s Hall was a safe haven for those who had been dining on Tryon and now couldn’t leave.
I stopped at a bathroom to clean off the blood, then decided it was time to leave. I made my way to my car, which was a few blocks away, and took the back streets home.