[image-1] Advocates are asking for accountability from law enforcement after an incident on May 31 in which police used “crowd control munitions” on residents of Eastside.
A large group of law enforcement officers were caught on video entering an Eastside housing area, holding firearms and tactical gear, before setting off a smoke bomb and shooting toward the crowd. Kwadjo Campbell, a representative for the Lowcountry Black Leadership Coalition, described the police’s tactics in the video as “military-like.”
“Women and children were subjected to projectiles, rubber bullets and tear gas,” Campbell said at a press conference. “That is what is so disturbing about what took place. They were confronted on a Sunday afternoon, while they were minding their business, hanging out in their community.”
Campbell described the response from the City of Charleston and Charleston Police Department as inadequate. An American Civil Liberties Union spokesperson also said the mayor’s office had not responded to their letter calling for accountability on the incident.
In the video, a crowd is seen yelling at the police from a distance. The crowd begins to move closer to the officers while one individual argues with them. Police, some with firearms drawn, responded by moving toward the crowd, causing some of them to disperse and move into their homes. As they move further up the street, police set off a smoke bomb and gunfire is heard. The police moved up and down the street as the smoke dissipated. They begin to move away from the area and more gunfire is heard. One woman yells at them, “Y’all are shooting at kids.”
According to a spokesperson for CPD, the Civil Disturbance Unit was sent to the area to protect firefighters. Personnel were attempting to leave the area when residents began arguing with them and “throwing objects at them.”
“Crowd control munitions were used at this time both to gain control of the escalating situation and to protect residents of the surrounding area,” the spokesperson said.
Several other law enforcement agencies were on the peninsula May 31.
Campbell stated that a meeting between Mayor John Tecklenburg and Police Chief Luther Reynolds is scheduled for later today, but it only transpired after groups sounded the alarm on the situation to the local news media. “What we would like to see is an official apology,” he told the City Paper. “We would also like to understand how it unfolded, a detailed explanation of who gave the order, who were the officers involved, so if there need to be any complaints filed, we know who to file them against. We want some context and that hasn’t been provided.”
A racial bias audit of CPD was completed in November, providing several findings, but Campbell said the audit did not go far enough.
Campbell believes the mayor has been resistant to criminal and economic justice reforms. “We feel now is the time he not only addresses this, but he addresses that, as well.” The Lowcountry Black Leadership Coalition is calling for independent racial bias audits, incarceration rate decreases through sentencing reform and rehabilitation programs, among other economic and educational policies. “Now is the time for this city really to address criminal justice reform and the culture of our law enforcement, because it wasn’t just City of Charleston. It was a combination of law enforcement agencies.”
[content-1] Saturday, the day before the video took place, demonstrators flooded downtown to protest the death of George Floyd during an arrest in Minneapolis. The officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck for almost 9 minutes as he told him he couldn’t breathe. On the night of May 30, riots occurred downtown, leaving some storefronts broken and stores looted. The same day the video was taken, officers arrested over 30 protesters, used pepper balls and tear gas on them. The ACLU condemned the action, calling it “unjustifiable even under the best of times,” referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.