Protesters gathered in Marion Square around 2 p.m. Saturday to rally in solidarity with the uprising in Minneapolis following the death of a man after he was restrained by police earlier this week.
For hours protesters gathered and roamed Charleston streets from Marion Square to the Battery to Market Street, hoping to send a message about racial injustice. The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis was just the most recent example, but his story is similar to others who have died or been singled out at the hands of overzealous policing that victimizes communities of color.
For most of the day, the protest remained peaceful, according to participants and posts by the Charleston Police Department. At some point, counterprotesters, several of whom were antagonizing crowds throughout the day, butted heads with those marching. Police spokesman Charles Francis said, “Two men wearing MAGA hats were punched several times” before the altercation was broken up by police. No complaints have been filed or reports taken by police at this time, according to Francis. One the the counterprotesters’ MAGA hats was reportedly burned after the confrontation.
Floyd’s death came after he was restrained by Minneapolis police over a counterfeit $20 bill. One officer, Derek Chauvin, put his knee on the Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, according to AP reports. After protests sparked by Floyd’s death and the slow response by local officials, Chauvin was arrested Friday and charged with manslaughter and third-degree murder.
“No justice. No peace,” supporters chanted at the start of the protest in the heart of downtown Charleston. In the shadow of the monument to Confederate forefather John C. Calhoun and blocks from Emanuel AME where nine were killed at the hands of a white supremacist, a crowd gathered in a show of force against institutional racism. [image-2] [image-4]
After speeches from community leaders and activists, participants pushed down King Street, forcing officers to close the thoroughfare. Blocked for a short time by Charleston police, supporters continued toward White Point Gardens at the southern end of King Street.
A police spokesman estimated crowds to be “in the hundreds,” but organizers put the figure close to 1,000. [image-1] At the foot of the Confederate Defenders of Charleston monument standing the tip of the Charleston Battery, the mass stopped for words from local leaders including S.C. Rep Marvin Pendarvis, D-N. Charleston, before heading back to Marion Square with a stop at the foot of market street. The building, Market Hall, is run by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
After stopping at King and Calhoun, protesters moved to the roadways at the foot of the Ravenel Bridge, again closing the area to traffic. S.C. Department of Transportation cameras showed the bridge shut down for much of the 7 p.m. hour, with traffic flowing along U.S. 17 South into downtown by 8 p.m.