CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)– On Sunday, City of Charleston leaders responded to criticism of how the weekend’s protest and riots unfolded.
Business owners hit the hardest by Saturday night’s looting urged Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg to do more while protesters on Sunday and said their rights to demonstrate in peace were infringed.
Saturday’s peaceful protest demanding justice was followed by chaos in downtown Charleston as night fell.
“I am honestly shocked this is happening in our city,” said one property manager after realizing several of his shops had been vandalized and looted.
The hours of mayhem left stores destroyed, restaurants ravaged, and business owners distraught.
“We called 9-1-1 10 times over a 3 hour period. No one responded at all,” said business owner Ken Schneider of Uncork Charleston.
As volunteers swept debris and glass from King Street shops Sunday morning, Schneider questioned the lack of law and order in the late hours of the night. A message written on the plywood of the wine bar called on the Mayor to resign.
“The past 12 hours I have not been angry about who did this but rather the lack of leadership we have seen in the city, ” said Schneider. “To not warn us, to not protect us, to let us fend for ourselves, literally. No one came,” he added.
A petition was created on Change.org calling for the Mayors’ resignation. As of Monday morning, the petition had more than 1,900 signatures.
The petition’s creator wrote, “The People of Charleston deserves better in such chaotic and uncertain times. Therefore, with no sense of confidence in your leadership, we the undersigned call for the immediate resignation of Mayor John Tecklenburg.”
On Saturday, Mayor Tecklenburg addressed the criticism.
“We acknowledge there was property loss. There was emotional and physical hurt to business owners and customers and I am sorry that that happened,” he said.
Police Chief Luther Reynolds said navigating a riot takes patience and proper tactics.
“There are people who have never worn a uniform or a riot and are sitting on the sidelines talking about what we should be doing and how we should do it,” Reynolds said. “I will just tell you when you are in a riot, you have to be smart, you have to be thoughtful, you have to be strategic,” he continued.
Both leaders warned of a different approach Sunday.
“I had officers hit by bottles, and bricks and I can promise you we have a different footprint tonight. We have gas we have grenadiers,” said Reynolds.
That change in tone was noticeable on Sunday evening in Marion Square and subsequently Meeting Street as protesters — even those gathered peacefully were broken apart– hours before the 6 p.m. curfew.
Community activist elder James Johnson said police were overstepping their power.
“They start shooting their teargas at these young people but Mayor Tecklenburg will be held accountable. They have a right for a peaceful assembly,” he said.
35 arrests were made on Saturday. Charges ranged but included Violating Curfew, Failure to Disperse, and Disobeying Lawful Order.