GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – Some community leaders are calling for peace and patience, as the Greenville Police Department reviews officers’ response and use of force, following an abortion rally on Saturday.
A video captured of the abortion protest in downtown Greenville over the weekend is still a big talker.
Dr. U.A. Thompson, a community leader, held a news conference on Wednesday, responding to a statement made by the Chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party.
“Today, we come to address some issues regarding the recent protest, the events that occurred after the Supreme Court’s decision of Roe v. Wade,” Thompson said.
The video showed anti-abortion and abortion rights advocates and police going back and forth.
“I did see the body slam on the news and I thought there was excessive force used there, especially against a woman who probably weighed 100 pounds less than the officer,” said June Baswell, co-organizer for the rally.
“But I don’t blame the police entirely. I think there are people to blame on both sides,” Baswell said.
The Greenville Police Department said anti-abortion and abortion rights advocates started confronting each other on opposite sides of the street.
The police department said they tried to separate the groups on opposite sides of the street, but despite multiple warnings, people refused to obey. Six people were arrested.
Baswell was one of the co-organizers of the rally. She said their part of the event was peaceful, adding that many of them left before everything broke out.
“The people you know, who did not listen to the police and move back, they are responsible for their action. They need to take personal responsibility for it,” Baswell said.
Trav Robertson, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, feels differently.
He recently put out this statement:
When I first watched the video of the police officers attacking a young woman and elderly gentlemen, I thought I was watching something out of a third world country….not Greenville, South Carolina. The business community that Mayor Knox White has successfully recruited to the Upstate must now come together to demand the resignation or termination of the police chief. If that does not happen, then it is obvious that Knox White is no longer capable of leading the city of Greenville.Trav Robertson, SC Democratic Party Chairman
“I stand for justice and disavow any acts of violence from anyone including any police misconduct,” Dr. Thompson said. “However do not stand with some of the members of this South Carolina Democratic Party, who have issued such a strong statement calling on the business community to force the mayor to force the chief to resign or be terminated. That is not what we need.”
“The investigation, of course, is ongoing and we need to allow that process to play out. Any politicization of this only makes matters worst. It’s unmerited, and for them to issue such a statement, I feel without letting all the facts be found was premature,” Dr. Thompson said.
“Furthermore, I believe that Columbia politics have no place in Greenville, at all. We need peace and patience as we work through this process. We need to continue to work together to build bridges that connect people and leave personal political agendas at home,” Dr. Thompson said.
“There’s questions about who the people were that got arrested, why they got arrested, and I certainly don’t think there’s any doubt whatsoever, that there were several bad cops in that group who used excessive force when people did break the law,” said Lee Turner, a community activist. “But I’m here to say that we are not calling for the ouster of our police chief and we are not going backwards.”
“I’m an activist. And I’ve counted up, in the last four and a half years, I have been out on Main Street in some form or fashion between 225 and 250 times in four and a half years,” Turner said. “So I know how things work out on Main Street.”
“I know that the policemen are our friends. They protect us. If we have trouble, we can call them and they’ll be right there,” Turner said.
Some of the community leaders said now it’s time to let the investigation run its course. They said it’s also time for the community to come together.
“So what I would suggest, in this case, is let the investigation takes its course. Let’s see what the facts give us. Let’s watch the body cams,” Turner said. “Let’s see what happened actually before we decide to burn the house down.”
7News reached out to Mayor Knox White who said there is an ongoing investigation in this case, which is appropriate. We also reached out to Robertson, but did not hear back.
The Greenville Police Department said an internal review of the incident will focus on the officers’ response and use of force.
Officials said this is standard protocol for all incidents involving force.