CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston's police chief says a total of 62 people have been arrested Saturday night and Sunday in connection with protests over the death of a Minnesota man in police custody.
Police Chief Luther Reynolds said the people who were arrested failed to obey a lawful order and were duly warned.
“And it was, in some cases, moving a large crowd in a violent riotous environment which is what we have in Charleston right now,” he said. “Sometimes it takes gas, sometimes it takes pepper spray, sometimes it takes smoke. And I can tell you I’m going to use those things until we bring order into our city.”
Reynolds said his officers treated people they arrested with dignity and respect.
“But when somebody tells you disperse in an environment like this, my advice to my own son or my own daughter would be obey the police or expect to get arrested,” he said. “You can make a choice one or the other. Some people obeyed. They weren’t arrested. Those that chose not to obey, they were arrested, many of them. Doesn’t make them bad people. That’s something that we needed to do.”
He also acknowledged that some people feel getting arrested at a protest is itself a form of protest and he respects and honors that.
"I wouldn't judge people because they want to be heard and that's part of the how they do it," he said. "I would just tell people do a peacefully. There's a whole lot of different ways where people could be hurt."
Reynolds said he wants people to be heard and wants the African American community to be respected and valued.
He repeated a message he has said several times about the death of George Floyd, calling it "deplorable."
“I don’t think putting your neck on somebody, your your your knee on somebody’s neck is a proper use of force and I could talk about that all day long, and the fact that that man died,” Reynolds said. “And there’s more to that investigation of sure, but I want that family, I want that city, and I want our profession to receive justice. I’m glad the African American community is angry. I’m angry. I share that anger, not only what happened in Minneapolis what happened with Aubery in Georgia, what happened in Central Park with a man who was watching birds, who was about as respectful as you could be.”
“I could go on and on and on and on,” he said. “Talk to somebody who’s in the African American community, and they can give you 1,000 examples like that and we’ve had it right here in our own city with Mother Emanuel. And you could just go on and on and on over the last 400 years. They need to be heard, I respect their voice, and I respect people that protest. I respect people that have a message to provide, but there’s ways of doing it responsibly and safely.”
Reynolds said the police force in an honorable profession, but said there have been a lot of things that have occurred in the profession that are not honorable.
“And we have to own that we have to own that locally, and we have to own that regionally and around our state and around our nation,” he said. “We have a culture in all of our agencies that can improve. We can always do better. And so how do we do that we have to do it one day at a time, one contact at a time, one citizen relationship at a time I call it relational policing. We have to be engaged. We have to build trust. It takes time. It’s not easy.”
Also on Monday, Charleston Police confirmed they are aware of a social media post that mentioned burning down the Angel Oak. Police spokesman Charles Francis said there will be an increased presence in the area.