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Peace activist tries to calm Charlotte protests with free hugs

(Reuters) - A peace activist in Charlotte, North Carolina, has been offering police and protesters free hugs in an attempt to calm three nights of unrest that have engulfed the city in the wake of the fatal shooting of a black man by police.

In a video that was posted online on Thursday by the Free Hugs Project, activist Ken Nwadike is seen hugging two riot policemen at a protest on Wednesday. Protesters are then heard shouting abuse at Nwadike, who proceeds to explain his message and why he is offering free hugs.

The video of Nwadike has gone viral with over 25 million views on the Free Hugs Project Facebook page.

Protesters in Charlotte have been demanding justice for Keith Scott, 43, who was shot dead by a black police officer in the parking lot of an apartment complex on Tuesday afternoon.

Police have fired tear gas and non-lethal projectiles to break up protests and rioters have smashed storefront windows, looted businesses and thrown objects at police, prompting officials to declare a state of emergency and the city’s mayor to enact a curfew.

Scott’s death is the latest to stir passions in the United States over the police use of deadly force against black men. Protests have asserted racial bias and excessive force by police and have given rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Police say Scott was carrying a gun when he approached officers and ignored repeated orders to drop it. His family previously said he was holding a book, not a firearm. It now says it has more questions than answers after viewing two videos recorded by police body cameras and says it could not tell what, if anything, Scott was carrying

Nwadike founded the Free Hugs Project in 2014 after the Boston Marathon bombings and has been traveling around the United States handing out free hugs ever since.

Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Melissa Fares; Editing by Leslie Adler