FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CHARLESTON, S.C. - The ACLU of South Carolina (ACLU SC) today sent a second letter to the City of Charleston reiterating objections to mass police violence in and around Marion Square by the Charleston Police Department (CPD) on the afternoon and evening of Sunday, May 31, 2020. This action follows an initial letter sent on June 2 by the ACLU SC calling on local law enforcement leaders to publicly explain their rationale for responding to non-violent protests against police violence with more police violence. The June 2 letter also issued a list of demands including a public apology from law enforcement leaders as well as outlined plans for holding officers accountable and guaranteeing people’s right to protest in Charleston. The City responded on June 22, bypassing questions and demands posed by the letter and defending law enforcement’s actions on May 31.
“On Sunday, May 31 we witnessed the Charleston Police Department engage in police brutality against community members peacefully protesting in Marion Square,” said ACLU SC Executive Director Frank Knaack. “It has been nearly 60 days since this police brutality, and the Charleston Police Department is still refusing to hold itself accountable, further undermining the community’s trust. We urge CPD to immediately account for its actions and apologize to the community.”
The CPD has attempted to justify its actions on May 31 by pointing to events that happened during the previous evening. But, the CPD’s own policy on use of force clearly states that force is only justified in times of imminent danger. A past event, even by their own standard, is not an acceptable reason for Charleston police officers to carry out mass violence and deploy potentially lethal weapons against people peacefully exercising their Constitutional rights.”
In addition to the use of force policy outlined in the CPD’s General Administrative Order, officers also violated the department’s rules on the use of chemical agents, which are only deemed necessary “where a serious danger to life and property exists and other methods of apprehension would be ineffective or more dangerous.”
The ACLU SC’s letter also raises concerns about excessive and unprovoked violence carried out by police on residents of Charleston’s Eastside neighborhood on the evening of May 31.
“The city and Charleston Police Chief Reynolds have dismissed concerns from Eastside residents and their allies about CPD’s violent actions in their neighborhood,” said Knaack. “This excessive, unprovoked police action is a part of a pattern against Black Eastside community members that cannot be ignored. Residents have called for services that will improve safety and, instead, CPD is using city resources to increase patrols. We know what happens when police go down this road, it’s not new. All this will do is further criminalize Black and poor people. ”