Group protests Kyle Rittenhouse trial verdict in Marion Square

Published: Nov. 21, 2021 at 8:56 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 22, 2021 at 12:30 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The organizer of a protest Sunday morning has been charged with violating the city’s First Amendment Demonstration ordinance by leading the group in a march down King Street.

That’s according to the city of Charleston Police Department.

About 20 people gathered in Marion Square around 10 a.m. Sunday morning. They said their goal was to offer their condolences to people who lost their lives in support of Black Lives last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

This follows the news on Friday that Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges against him more than a year after he shot three men, killing two of them, during a protest in Kenosha.

The protestors in Marion Square Sunday morning were asked by police to march down Meeting Street instead of King Street.

Protest organizer Justin Hunt said his original plan was to march down King Street. He argued that the city’s First Amendment Demonstration ordinance does not prohibit protestors from marching on King Steet.

The protestors proceeded to march down the sidewalk along King Street, down to Broad Street. That’s where CPD asked them to turn left or turn back around. The group proceeded to head back to Marion Square, where they finished their protest.

Charleston Police Sgt. Elisabeth Wolfsen said in a statement that 31-year-old Justin Hunt was arrested and charged for refusing to cooperate with the police and adhere to guidelines set forth under the First Amendment Demonstration ordinance by leading the group in a march down King Street.

The arrest happened after the demonstration finished.

Under the Small and Spontaneous First Amendment Demonstration guidelines, spontaneous gatherings are approved without permits if sparked by breaking news or topics coming into public knowledge less than 48 hours prior to the event. It also states that demonstrations cannot disrupt, block, obstruct or interfere with pedestrian or vehicle traffic.

There are several other rules and exemptions to this ordinance. To view the full list, click here.

An incident report states officers informed Hunt that the group would have to move into the park to comply with the city’s restriction against demonstrating within 15 feet of specific locations, structures and fountains. Hunt disagreed with the officers and said that the spontaneous nature of his event allowed him to protest anywhere he wanted, the report states.

Prior to his arrest, Hunt said he felt he accomplished what he wanted to and exposed the system.

“Stop with this ordinance trying to control our voice,” Hunt said. “I’ve shown time and time again, not just in this city, in multiple cities, that I am able to peacefully protest. So, they use these laws to try to control us so we gotta challenge the law system and we gotta challenge it out here as we did today.”

During the march, protestors chanted things like, “this is what democracy looks like,” “Kyle is a murderer,” “no justice, no peace,” and “black lives matter.”

“So, we wanted to show our condolences to the Rosenbaum family and the Huber family,” Hunt said. “And we wanted to stand against white supremacy and the system. And they know, the case, broke my heart. From the beginning, I saw favoritism. It’s more than the incident, it’s the whole system.”

Hunt said he plans to continue attending city council meetings, reaching out to council members, and continue attending school board meetings to make sure his voice is heard.

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