Black Lives Matter protesters march to downtown Summerville
SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - About 300 people showed up to protest in Summerville on Monday afternoon.
They started at Walmart on North Main Street and marched to Hutchinson Square.
Protesters chanted, “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe." The latter is the statement George Floyd was heard saying in a video taken shortly before his death while in Minneapolis Police custody last Monday.
The cell phone video sparked protests nationwide.
“We’re out here for the movement,” one protester said. "I mean this goes beyond recent events. We could take this all the way back beyond the birth of my life. We can mention ‘92 and King. We can go back further than that. The whole point is right here, right now, we’re out here fighting for equality for all.”
Summerville Police Chief Jon Rogers was also at the event and spoke to the crowd, thanking them for being respectful during the protest.
“Thank you for being respectful to our town,” Rogers said. "Thank you for being respectful for the First Amendment. We want you to protest, but we want to do it peacefully. And, for that, we thank you.”
Authorities reported that one person was arrested during the trip back to the start of the protest.
A large law enforcement presence was present with units from the Summerville Police Department, the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office, the National Guard, SLED, and a helicopter from the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.
Summerville Police had confirmed Monday afternoon that one of the event’s organizers, Tabitha Little, has been arrested by Summerville Police on unrelated outstanding warrants.
The organizer of the protest march through Summerville moved the start time earlier because of a curfew.
The protest was originally set to begin at 4 p.m. at the Walmart on Main Street, but a Facebook event page stated the event had been moved up two hours.
Black Lives Matter said the march would be peaceful.
Earlier Monday, the town of Summerville extended a 12-hour curfew to take effect at 6 p.m. Monday.
Town spokesperson Mary Edwards said the curfew will continue through 6 a.m. Tuesday. Town Council voted on the original curfew, which took effect Sunday night through Monday morning, during a special council meeting on Monday. The vote, which gave Mayor Ricky Waring authority to adjust the curfew through June 11, was designed to limit the potential of violent protests, she said.
“The town fully respects the rights of individuals to peacefully protest,” Edwards said. “The police department will be assisted by surrounding local, state, and federal agencies to work to ensure the safety of peaceful protesters.”
Summerville Police Lt. Shaun Tumbleston released a short statement Monday:
The Summerville Police Department fully supports and will protect your constitutional right to peacefully assemble and portest; however, if one chooses to step out of line and break the law, they will be placed under arrest and criminally charged immediately.
Despite the group’s call for a peaceful protest, Summerville town leaders warned businesses Sunday to either close or secure their properties and parking lots by removing any furniture or debris.
Town spokesperson Mary Edwards said Monday there is no event permit for a protest on Monday. The Police Department is prepared for any potential march/protest that may come up, she said.
Some Summerville business owners began boarding up their windows Sunday afternoon.
Some of those boards were spray-painted with messages like, “We hear you,” “We support you” and “Stay safe.”
Summerville Town Council’s authorization for the curfew gives Mayor Ricky Waring authority to adjust the curfew based on events through June 11.
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