City Market vendors ask for more safety after rose peddler incident Saturday

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Vendors at the City Market in Downtown Charleston are concerned after they say children selling palmetto roses became aggressive when asked to leave. News 2 obtained videos of the incident from the vendors, who hope that documenting the encounter will result in more protections for vendors.

Charleston leaders say they have programs to help curb the issue but haven’t had much luck. 

Wayne Wexler said Saturday’s market started off normally; it is not uncommon for rose peddlers to come through the market. But then, the situation escalated, according to Wexler, when a security guard asked the kids to leave and they refused.

Unfortunately, the security guards don’t have a lot of authority and in fact, one of the rose peddlers hit the security guard in the face with one of the roses.  

Wayne Wexler, Vendor

Wexler said the children then began yelling expletives at the security officer and other vendors. Wexler recorded the incident in an effort to diffuse the situation. He said he hoped the children being on camera would allow them to chance to correct their stature and verbiage.

However, the children came back later to continue to sell roses in an aggressive manner. Wexler said he was spat on and told on camera by the children that they would find him after the closure of the market. Feeling unsafe, Wexler called the police to report the issue and get an escort with his products back to his vehicle.

The aggressions, according to Wexler, are a common occurrence for vendors. He said one vendor told him he had been punched by someone illegally selling roses.

Charleston police tell News 2 they are trying to help.

Lt. James Byne with the Charleston Police Department said they are aware of the issues at the market with rose kids, vendors, and patrons but stressed that it’s a delicate situation. He said that when possible, the department already adds additional officers so that they can be more of a visible presence and deterrent.

We aren’t necessarily trying to shut down the art and the tradition of palmetto artisanship, but we are trying to make sure that people are doing things the right way and they are not committing criminal acts. We hear your concerns, they are real, we respect them—we will do everything that we can within the law. 

Lieutenant James Byrne, Team 9 Commander CPD

According to city leaders, zero children are currently enrolled in their Palmetto Artesian Program that was designed to curb the issue. They are currently looking to relaunch that program with new aspects in the near future.

Wexler is not against rose selling in general. He respects the craft, saying the roses are well made and the children are talented, often forming the roses without even looking. The price points are fair, Wexler said, but the aggressive tactics need to stop.

Saturday’s incident is currently under investigation. CPD says they want to encourage all vendors to continue calling them when incidents arise, or they feel unsafe.

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