[image-1] The parent company of a North Charleston gas station where an employee called the police on anti-violence demonstrators on Sun. Oct. 14 says the group was “calm and peaceful.”
A spokesperson for Murphy USA, the Arkansas-based gas station operator, told the City Paper that the Fortune 500 company was looking over camera footage from the incident in a statement Thursday morning. Later in the day, they announced their support for the activists’ efforts and said the caller’s employment was still under review.
The caller, who identified herself as “Brenda” to a 911 dispatcher, claimed that a crowd of children and adults wearing “Guns Down Chuck Town” T-shirts was “absolutely destroying the outside” of the store. At one point, she compared the situation to a “riot.”
“They keep turning the pumps off, they’re hitting the pumps down,” she said. “We need a policeman here now.”
The North Charleston Police Department said the crowd dispersed by the time officers arrived at 8599 Rivers Ave.
Authorities did not fill out an incident report.
Murphy spokesperson Joshua Cook confirmed that “Brenda” is a manager at the store and stood by details of her account in a statement announcing the company’s review Thursday morning:
Approximately 30-40 people were gathered outside the location at the conclusion of a local community event. Safety issues arose due to people, many of which were young children, being in and around the flow of store traffic, and disruptions to the business were caused by an external emergency fuel stop button being struck numerous times, which shut down all fuel pumps at our site. A Murphy USA employee approached the group and requested they leave the premises. After members of the group refused to leave the premises, a call was made to law enforcement. At this time, Murphy USA is reviewing the situation and the response with our team.
Cell phone footage of the encounter racked up tens of thousands of views on Facebook by Tuesday morning. The video, taken by local community organizer Jonathan Thrower, shows the crowd standing outside of the store while a woman spoke on the phone with a dispatcher, asked Thrower to stop filming, and walked inside.
“A simple conversation would have sufficed,” Thrower told CP on Thursday. “If anyone pressed a button, it had to be a child. Hopefully, they will release the video tape from Murphy’s. It will clearly show we were orderly.”
Murphy USA released an updated statement on Thursday evening after completing a review of the store’s security camera footage.
We can confirm that the group of 30-40 individuals – many of them children who were gathered at the location following the march – were calm and peaceful.
The security camera footage shows clear safety concerns related to children moving around and in front of vehicles entering and exiting the gas station during a busy time of day. Our records also confirm that an external, emergency fuel shut-off button was pressed on at least three occasions, disabling all fuel pumps and requiring a manual reset to restart gasoline transactions.
We regret that this incident has taken focus away from the purpose of the local anti-violence march, a cause we fully support.
When asked about the caller’s employment status, Cook told CP, “That continues to be part of the company’s review.”
Cook said that a senior representative from Murphy USA will meet with organizers of the non-violence march sometime next week.