Mt. Pleasant police arrested four protesters on disorderly conduct charges Wednesday after they briefly blocked traffic on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge during afternoon rush hour.
According to flyers that protesters handed to onlookers during the protest, the purpose of blocking vehicle traffic from Charleston to Mt. Pleasant was partly "to protest state violence against the black community of Greater Charleston." The flyer stated, "We unite with [the] community's demand for a civilian review board."
The flyer echoed a call for civilian oversight of the North Charleston Police Department that a coalition of community organizations made Monday on the one-month anniversary of Walter Scott's shooting by a North Charleston police officer.
According to an incident report from the Mt. Pleasant police department, the arrested protesters were Jasmin Hillary Wilson, 22; Jillian Sue Brandl, 24; Ansley Katelyn Pope, 21; and Chantelle Marie Lebeau, 25. Two protesters who were present at the bridge shutdown say that Pope, a transgender man, was misidentified as female in the police report.
One of the arrestees, Wilson, says the group held the protest in solidarity with a nationwide Black Lives Matter protest being planned for May 21, but "because we're all at CofC and will all be leaving soon, we bumped up that day of action." Wilson, a Columbia native, says she will be leaving Charleston after graduating from the college next week with a double major in creative writing and African-American studies.
"Our actions are not to get the attention of a news crew, but to get the attention of our neighbors," Wilson says.
Asked why the group held the protest on the Ravenel Bridge and not in North Charleston, Wilson said, "It's wild that people think Charleston and North Charleston are two different places because of their demographics or because of their geographic location, but they're not two different places. Honestly, whenever I hear that argument, 'Oh, it's in North Charleston, not Charleston,' it sounds like a class argument: 'Oh, it's happening over there with those people, and it has nothing to do with me.'"
Wilson says that, in addition to a flurry of angry online comments on news reports about the bridge closure, members of the group have received death threats via text messages and emails since blocking the bridge Wednesday. "I think the response is very reflective of the state of race relations in the city of Charleston," Wilson says. "It says a lot about Charleston, this quote-unquote 'progressive' city, where we're in the 21st century now and a lot of people's attitudes on race relations are still in the 1950s, and that's something I'd really like to have a conversation about."
The act of civil disobedience was organized by members of the activist groups Southerners On New Ground and #BlackBrunchCHS (the latter group has also recently organized protest actions during brunch at High Cotton and Hominy Grill), although a SONG organizer says that the organization itself did not orchestrate the protest. The four arrestees, who have been called the Cooper River 4 by supporters, linked arms inside PVC pipes and sang the protest song "Which Side Are You On" as police forcibly escorted them out of the roadway. They were released on bail late Wednesday night.
SONG posted the following video of the bridge shutdown and ensuring arrests on its website:
The tactics of the event were markedly more aggressive than those of Black Lives Matter - Charleston, a protest group that has been holding rallies in front of North Charleston City Hall and making requests at City Council meetings since Scott's shooting. Elias Lyles, a fundraising coordinator with SONG who was present at the bridge shutdown who is also a City Paper contributor (née Jenna Lyles), says that while the protest action was not organized by Black Lives Matter - Charleston, part of the intention was to support that group's agenda.
"We definitely stand in alignment with the demands of the organizations who are trying to work with city government, and I think they've been incredibly gracious with the city of North Charleston, and they've been met with mostly being ignored," Lyles says. "We're trying to make it very clear that until the city of North Charleston takes action to actually reform their system of policing, which has caused so much harm in so many people's lives, they can expect folks to be fighting back in whatever ways we can."
Asked whether the protesters were the same people who previously announced they would shut down the bridge on April 9, Lyles declined to comment. After protesters sent a press release to the City Paper and other news outlets announcing their intention to block the bridge at 4 p.m. on April 9, the protest action failed to materialize, with one of the listed spokespersons writing in an email, "THERE HAS BEEN A LEAK. PLEASE DISREGARD AND DO NOT PUBLISH THIS INFORMATION."
Muhiyidin d'Baha, an organizer with Black Lives Matter - Charleston, wrote the following statement about the bridge shutdown:
"There are many people, groups, and allies that support the change needed for accountability. While Black Lives Matter - Charleston did not orchestrate today's demonstrations, we are in full support of civil disobedience and non-violent direct action in order to stress the 'urgency' of community-based police reform. Through the protests and demonstrations today, we stand in solidarity to honor the lives of brown & black women and men and LGBTQ+ lives lost at the hands of law enforcement and vigilante violence."
There's no definitive word yet from Charleston School of Law officials, but the school's two remaining co-founders reportedly told faculty and staff on Tuesday, days before current students are set to take exams, that the school "cannot in good faith enroll another class" of students, and that they were "heartbroken with this situation." Attorney Andy Savage didn't hold back in a Facebook post Tuesday night, saying, except for former founding board member Ed Westbrook, that other school trustees "all sold their soul along with their reputations." Source: CRBJ, P&C, Facebook
A legislative audit of S.C. abortion clinics showed that of 42 annual inspections that should have been done between 2001 and 2014, only 33 could be accounted for by DHEC. Lax regulation by by the agency is a problem for all health care facilities, not just abortion clinics, says one industry consultant. Planned Parenthood says that political agendas seeking to chip away at abortion access are behind the 52-page state report.
A tropical system system churning off the East Coast will make its way toward shore today and tomorrow, with a chance of developing into a tropical depression. Source: The State
As state lawmakers struggle to find a way to pump money into state transportation projects and take care of ongoing maintenance, budget analysis by The Nerve shows S.C. DOT funding has dropped more than $40 million since Gov. Nikki Haley took office in 2010, a nearly 16 percent decrease. Source: The Nerve
A House-Senate conference committee reached a compromise yesterday to replace the board of trustees at South Carolina State University, breaking a weeks-long stalemate on how best to begin taking action to fix ongoing funding issues at the HBCU. Source: The State
Small-town newspaper editors are fighting for stricter freedom of information laws that would require local agencies to respond to records requests faster, a requirement that local government officials and police say would make it harder to do their jobs. Source: AP
The state Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism says that since July of last year, South Carolina developers have invested more than $1 billion in new tourism projects across the state. Source: CRBJ
A few weeks after proposing an additional tax on non-owner-occupied properties, Charleston County School District is proposing a second increase to raise $31 million to replace the district's 310 school buses. Source: P&C
Today is Lowcountry Giving Day, and more than 100 nonprofit organizations across the area are vying for your donations. As of 11 a.m., more than $1,000,000 had already been raised. For a comprehensive list of who's participating and to donate, visit LowcountryGivingDay.org. Source: P&C
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed to appear before the special committee, chaired by Upstate Congressman Trey Gowdy, to discuss the 2012 Benghazi attacks. Clinton had been asked to appear twice to discuss Benghazi and the use of personal email while SoS. Source: Politico
State regulators in North and South Carolina have signed off on proposals to allow oil exploration off the coast of both states, with S.C. DHEC deeming a surveying proposal by Spectrum GEO in compliance with state law. Source: AP, P&C
Gov. Nikki Haley apologized to two Upstate Republicans for omitting them from a Facebook list of politicians she intended to praise, criticizing others for "taking a walk on a vote," when in reality two of the Republicans left off, Reps. Josh Putnam and Wendy Nanney were visiting local hospitals. Putnam's son was hospitalized and said to be "fighting for his life." Source: G'ville News
A S.C. judge has ordered a nonprofit group to disclose the names of parents who received tuition grants after complaints alleged the group promised the grants in exchange for donations, which can also be applied as credits toward taxes owed by the donors to the state. Source: The StateGolden State Warrior's guard Stephen Curry was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player for the 2014-2015 season on Monday. Curry, who played college ball at Davidson, terrorized the College of Charleston during his years in the Southern Conference, has gone on to lead the Warriors to the league's best win-loss record, has been called "the NBA's most Vine-worthy star," and now holds the title won 4 of the last 6 years by LeBron James. Source: SB Nation, P&C, Mashable
USC's retail outpost in Charleston, Carolina on King, will close its doors at the end of the month after the building's owner sold the property to an unnamed buyer with plans to redevelop the location near King and Wentworth Street. Source: P&C
The smartphone-based ride-hailing service Uber is offering $20 off to first-time riders during the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston. According to a press release from the festival, new users who download the Uber app and sign up using the promotional code SPOLETOUSA15 will receive $20 off the cost of their first ride.
Meanwhile, Uber already offers its own $30 discount to first-time Uber users who enter the promo code RIDIN30, as advertised on the nationwide Uber website. It remains unclear whether the two promotions can be combined, but Spoleto spokesperson Jennifer Scott says that the two codes "probably wouldn't be able to be used in tandem."
Scott says Uber approached the festival's organizers about setting up the promotion. She says a donation will be given to the festival's nonprofit organization every time a user enters the promotional code.
"Many people who do not live downtown can be reluctant to drive and find parking," Scott says. "Uber offers a way to be a part of the festival fun for people living outside of the downtown area." According to Scott, informational flyers from Spoleto also list local taxi cab companies as an option for getting around town. The Spoleto website also mentions CARTA's downtown DASH service.
Spoleto's announcement came just under a week after Charleston City Council passed an ordinance April 28 requiring Uber drivers to purchase business licenses. City Councilman Bill Moody, chairman of the Traffic and Transportation Committee, says the company has been "opposed to us doing any kind of regulation from day one."
City Council's ordinance will take effect on May 28, seven days into the 17-day performing arts festival.
"Basically what [Uber] said to us was, having a business license for all these individual drivers, that we won't be able get drivers, it's too onerous and we wont be able to have any drivers," Moody says. "So, that being the case, I guess they won't have any drivers for Spoleto."
According to the press release from Spoleto, riders who use the Uber app during the festival can also enter a "Ride to Win" competition for two tickets and a round-trip ride (up to $50 each) to the Wells Fargo Festival Finale at Middleton Place on Sun. June 7.
Parts of six South Carolina counties designated part of a new "Promise Zone" see an opportunity in the new federal dictate, which gives the area, mostly in the Lowcountry, preferential status when applying for federal grants and other assistance. A similar zone in Kentucky saw $174 million invested in the area from the state, feds, and private sector. Source: P&C, Colleton Today
The area around the Promise Zone does have some of the state's highest unemployment and poverty rates, but a new NYT analysis shows that not one county in South Carolina brings a positive outlook for children growing up poor. Charleston County ranks in the bottom nine percent in income mobility nationally, and Horry County ranks among the worst. Source: NYT
SLED says the state won't release dashcam footage in the case involving a fatal officer-involved shooting in North Augusta for fear that the video could interfere with the officer's fair trial on criminal misconduct and discharging a firearm charges. Source: NYT/AP
Looking to buy or sell something on Craigslist? S.C. poilice stations are offering their parking lots as safe meeting spots for transactions. Source: AP
Gov. Nikki Haley talks about working with lawmakers on policy initiatives over the weekend at the S.C. Republican Party convention: "These are the people who are supposed to be moving South Carolina forward, and every day I've been fighting my own Republicans." Source: AP
Former Congressman Bob Inglis received the JFK Profile in Courage Award over the weekend, with Kennedy's grandson Jack Schlossberg, commending Inglis: "My grandfather's legacy is kept alive by Bob's courageous decision to sacrifice his political career to demand action on the issue that will shape life on Earth for generations to come." Source: NYT/AP
Speaking of golf, the P&C has an interesting recount of how NFL owner Bob McNair landed the winning $11.3 million bid in the bankruptcy auction for exclusive Johns Island golf club Briar's Creek, which had fallen on hard financial times. Source P&C
The NBA's Charlotte Hornets is reportedly putting a call out to seven Carolinas cities, including Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville, as it looks to establish and grow an NBA Development League affiliate in the area. Soruce: Charlotte Observer