CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union have been in the Lowcountry this week to monitor peaceful protests.
After a peaceful demonstration in Marion Square and on King Street on Saturday, several individuals were involved a riot Saturday night into Sunday morning. Another protest took place during the day on Sunday at Marion Square.
The ACLU is now requesting an apology from local law enforcement after they deployed tear gas against the peaceful protesters.
A representative with the ACLU in South Carolina said Sunday’s protest was not violent and believe law enforcement’s response with tear gas was not appropriate.
“On Sunday, we attended a non-violent protest as observers in downtown Charleston. What we observed was disturbing,” said Frank Knaack, Executive Director for the ACLU of SC.
The organization sent a letter to law enforcement leaders asking for an apology.
“We saw law enforcement respond to a nonviolent protest in full riot gear with riot vehicles ordering individuals to disperse who were protesting nonviolently, exercising their First Amendment rights nonviolently.”
When protesters did not disperse, law enforcement took additional action.
“They resorted to using projectiles. Launching projectiles and chemicals at the protesters, and then engaging in arrests.”
Tear gas was used.
Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds said people were arrested only after being instructed to disperse, but some did not disperse.
The protestors did have a permit to protest, but that permit expired at noon. The tear gas happened later in the afternoon. The ACLU asked law enforcement for clarification on that.
A man named Gee Jordan was also arrested during Monday’s protest. He was seen on social media video saying “I love each and every one of you” to officers at the demonstration. Although he remained peaceful and on one knee, officers moved in to detain him.
“What their legal authority was to declare the protest to be illegal and to engage in arrests at that time. We have not gotten a response back from law-enforcement on that question.”
The ACLU did acknowledge seeing someone throw a bottle of water toward law enforcement, but Knaack says that was after the tear gas was used.
“When I witnessed that, it was well into the use of force and the extreme use of force by law enforcement. There’s no way they could justify something well after this began as something that would be the trigger to start what happened.”
The ACLU sent their letter requesting an apology and changes be made to the Sheriffs of Berkeley and Charleston Counties as well as the chiefs of Charleston, Mt. Pleasant and the State Law Enforcement Division.
These are the agencies the ACLU say they personally witnessed being on-site during the protest Sunday.