Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Black Lives Matter march blocks Montague Avenue in North Charleston at curfew, drawing arrests

Demonstrations continued Monday after weekend of protests

Posted by Sam Spence on Tue, Jun 2, 2020 at 9:19 AM

click to enlarge Protesters blocked Montague Avenue for about 10 minutes on Monday - SAM SPENCE
  • Sam Spence
  • Protesters blocked Montague Avenue for about 10 minutes on Monday
A peaceful march from North Charleston City Hall along Montague Avenue resulted in seven arrests Monday after protesters briefly blocked traffic, triggering a show-of-force response from police, the National Guard and six other law enforcement agencies.

Two days after demonstrations downtown drew hundreds for peaceful protests and a faction of late-night rioters who shattered businesses on King Street, events continued Monday to honor the death of George Floyd and raise awareness of police injustice. The Black Lives Matter event Monday was set in a community where residents and city leaders have been at odds over the need for an independent racial bias audit of police since a former North Charleston officer shot and killed Walter Scott in 2015. Just last week, police announced disciplinary action for three officers who acted "inconsistently" during encounters with a black man in early May.

Organizers assembled outside the city building that includes the North Charleston Police Department were initially unhappy with metal barricades set up ahead of the 4:30 p.m. event that would have contained the crowd in the parking lot. Moving to a rear corner parking lot behind the building, the crowd was hemmed in by yellow police tape.

Rallying around a set of "demands" distributed on a flyer by organizers, attendees repeated their wishlist of injustice remedies: health care, independent prosecution of police brutality, citizen involvement in police policymaking and more.

State, local and county elected officials were on hand for portions of the event along with religious leaders.
click to enlarge Crowds marched from North Charleston City Hall - SAM SPENCE
  • Sam Spence
  • Crowds marched from North Charleston City Hall
Marchers moved the event toward Montague Avenue as the countywide 6 p.m. curfew (and the event's billed end-time) approached.

With rush hour traffic zipping by along Montague and I-26 below as protesters crossed the overpass, many drivers honked and signaled their approval of the demonstration.

Those organized remained peaceful throughout the march, but as the clock ticked toward curfew, some locked arms and began lining up across the five-lane avenue connecting the coliseum area and I-26.

Police continued asking the crowd to disperse according to the 6 p.m. curfew, but the protest line stood, leading to a minutes-long standoff as officers in riot gear and carrying batons waited. Several North Charleston armored trucks, two National Guard Humvees, county sheriff tactical transports, buses and unmarked vehicles lined the street.
click to enlarge Heavily armored vehicles and SWAT officers accompanied the crowd back to city hall - SAM SPENCE
  • Sam Spence
  • Heavily armored vehicles and SWAT officers accompanied the crowd back to city hall
After about 10 minutes the crowd began to break up and organizers — with a little help from kitted-out SWAT officers close by — ushered the crowd back toward city hall as officials arrested several demonstrators.

A North Charleston Police Department account of the events said seven people who refused police orders, blocked traffic or incited the crowd were arrested. Six were charged with disorderly conduct and curfew violation, one juvenile was also arrested.

After Saturday's destructive riots downtown, North Charleston police reported damage to four stores at the Tanger Outlet center. No other major incidents have been reported in North Charleston related to the protests, but many businesses in the Park Circle area preemptively boarded up their windows Monday.

The State Law Enforcement Division, Department of Natural Resources, S.C. Highway Patrol, Berkeley County Sheriff's Office, and the Goose Creek Police Department also assisted the North Charleston Police Department, according to a spokesman.

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