Police arrest 35 people on Sunday in connection to protests in Charleston

Updated: May. 31, 2020 at 10:24 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Officials with the Charleston Police Department say a total of 35 people were arrested on Sunday in connection to protests in downtown Charleston.

Arrests began early Sunday afternoon when police responded to Marion Square for what they said was an illegal gathering. The arrests began shortly after authorities gave warnings that arrests would begin if protesters did not disperse.

Pictures and videos from the scene showed several people being taken into custody. Police said protesters were illegally gathering on the square.

City of Charleston spokesman Jack O’Toole said the protesters did not have a permit to assemble on the square, making their gathering illegal. Police ordered them to disperse and when protesters did not do so, police began arresting them for disorderly conduct.

Protesters said they were protesting peacefully, unlike those who rioted in downtown Charleston Saturday night vandalizing and looting businesses in the city.

The remaining protesters were then seen walking along Meeting Street and traveling to different areas of the city.

Law enforcement deployed tear gas during this time and made additional arrests.

Activities from the protesters then began to diminish close to 6 p.m. which was the start of the city’s curfew.

About an hour later, authorities responded to a number of incidents including two fires on Johnson Street.

Charleston Police arrest an unidentified protester at Marion Square.
Charleston Police arrest an unidentified protester at Marion Square.(Live 5)

Around 7:30 p.m. multiple police units responded to the area of Johnson Street for a fire.

Our crew on the scene shot video of the fire which appeared to be a recycling bin that was on fire in the middle of the road which law enforcement units extinguished.

Some people refused to go back to their homes or leave the area.

An officer on a bullhorn warned those who disobeyed that they would be arrested. Police in riot gear stood shoulder to shoulder to block the street and to restore calm.

Law enforcement units also responded to another nearby fire, this time a trash can on fire.

According to CPD officials, of the people arrested today two were arrested for two fires.

Police then continued to patrol Johnson Street and placed at least one person in custody.

In another separate incident on Johnson Street, police were seen firing tear gas. Our news crew was told to leave the area due to the situation. You can watch the incident below.

Posted by Live 5 News on Sunday, May 31, 2020
Police responding to a fire on Johnson Street in downtown Charleston Sunday evening.
Police responding to a fire on Johnson Street in downtown Charleston Sunday evening.(Live 5 News)

The Charleston Police Department has been joined with other law enforcement agencies including the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office to enforce a curfew which runs from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Charleston County, North Charleston, Summerville and Dorchester County have also issued curfews.

Sheriff Al Cannon said units would be in downtown Charleston all night long.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg and Police Chief Luther Reynolds defended the city’s response to Saturday night’s riots downtown as they urged people to clear the peninsula by 6 p.m.

Tecklenburg said that in the midst of a pandemic, a horrific murder "tore the scab off of a wound of racism" and has had an impact all over the country.

But he said the rioting in Charleston is ironic because the city has been struggling to get to a better place. He cited an city council apology for Charleston's role in slavery and a racial bias audit conducted last year for Charleston's police force.

"We're all angry about this horrific murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but y'all last night was a sad night in the city of Charleston," Tecklenburg said.

He said they called for a curfew when the first pane of glass was broken.

“With the resources available to us and many bad actors on the scene, the situation clearly got out of control,” he said.

Gov. Henry McMaster said the South Carolina National Guard is on alert and will be available around the state as needed, including in Charleston and Columbia, to help prevent further violence.

McMaster said state, county and city law enforcement authorities are also on alert in response to protests Saturday across the state over the death of George Floyd, the man who died Monday in Minnesota. His death, following an arrest during which a white police officer was seen holding his knee on Floyd’s neck for some eight minutes, touched off violent protests in Minneapolis and other cities across the nation.

“We are determined to see it things level off here in South Carolina and we do not experience the tragedies that they’ve had in other places,” McMaster said at a Sunday afternoon news conference in West Columbia.

He said it remains to be seen whether a statewide curfew will be issued.

Police form line around Marion square to patrol protesters. Lillian Donahue - Live 5 News is live

Posted by Live 5 News on Sunday, May 31, 2020

This all follows Saturday night’s riots which saw many Charleston businesses damaged by rioters.

Charleston police officials said they monitored a peaceful demonstration that night until the “behavior of the protesters changed without provocation.”

CPD officials said there was criminal behavior, some spontaneous, while other acts were “clearly coordinated and organized” with direct purpose to cause destruction.

Authorities with Charleston police said at least seven people were arrested with charges ranging from loitering, burglary and damage to private property.

“We will act decisively and swiftly to those participating in this type of behavior in our city,” Police Chief Luther Reynolds said.

The police department is asking anyone with video, photos and other evidence which can identify people who engaged in criminal behavior to call (843) 743-7200 for the on duty CPD Central detective or Crime Stoppers at (843) 554-1111.

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