SC protests peaceful overall; agitators provoke police response

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COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – Clean up is underway in several cities across the state, after a few people escalated protests originally in honor of George Floyd’s death. Thousands of South Carolinians used this weekend to call for change and demand justice.

“We’re tired. The people out here today have lost a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, mother father. We are tired,” said Ramel Brown, a protester at a the peaceful demonstration in Columbia.

South Carolinians in every corner of the state expressed the pain they felt watching George Floyd die at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.​

From Greenville to Charleston, community leaders, activists, and concerned citizens chanted, held signs and marched for justice.​

Representative Gary Clary called for an end to racism on his Twitter immediately following the death of George Floyd. The representative applauded those protesters let their voices and concerns be heard.

“That is the cornerstone of this country. The establishment in the Constitution as our First Amendment right to assemble and free speech.”

Sheriff Leon Lott was present at the protests in Columbia over the weekend. Lott was a participant speaking with protesters and hearing their grievances. But the sheriff had to also assume his law enforcement role.

“Things were peaceful. That’s when people’s voices were heard. They were telling their position and what they wanted to change. And it was a good conversation.” ​

As the sun set, the frustration grew. Major cities like Greenville, Charleston and Columbia saw violence, prompting extra law enforcement officers to be called in for backup. ​

“​We do not tolerate lawlessness and violence and destruction of property or harm to our people, ” said Governor Henry McMaster in special called media briefing after 2 Columbia Police cars were set on fire by agitators on Saturday.

Sheriff Lott added, “We saw the flag being burned. We saw cars being burned. We saw officers being injured. At some point we had to take the city to make sure the city was safe.” ​Several nearby law enforcement agencies were called in to help handle the crowd on Saturday and Sunday.

As a result, curfews were implemented. Despite those isolated incidents of violence, law makers, law enforcement, and residents agree: change is needed and relationships between police and the communities they serve need to improve​.

Representative Clary continued, “Justice should not be issued based on the color of your skin. Just like police should not treat you any differently than they treat me. “​

Attorney General Alan Wilson issued a statement earlier vowing to protect law abiding protestors and working to identify any organized groups that might be instigating violence or property damage.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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