COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus held a press conference at the South Carolina State House on Wednesday afternoon.
The press conference was a couple hundred yards away from the group of protesters who were out at the State House for a fifth day in a row.
Black lawmakers said they support the protesters’ right to peacefully protest and thanked them for what they’re doing.
“We will not stand with those who hurt, who oppress, who profile -- because they are the bad apples,” Rep. Ivory Thigpen said. “There must be accountability.”
They did speak out against the violence that happened Saturday night in downtown Columbia and in Charleston. But the lawmakers said they were proud to see protests across the state continue to remain peaceful this week.
The caucus said they will be working closely with the rest of the General Assembly and the governor on reform efforts.
The lawmakers said they would like to see full funding and compliance for a state body camera law. They would also like to see a panel created that studies police reform in the state.
A spokesperson for Gov. Henry McMaster said the governor is always willing to work with lawmakers on various issues and he has an open door policy.
Black lawmakers said they would also like to see South Carolina pass a state hate crime law. Critics of that idea have previously said they don’t believe a state law is needed since there is already a federal hate crime law in place.
“We feel very good about the dialogue we are having,” Rep. Jerry Govan said. “We know it’s not going to happen overnight. We need to move with haste and urgency.”
Wednesday morning, the United States Attorney's Office announced 13 law enforcement agencies in South Carolina are receiving $8 million to hire more officers and work on improving community policing. This effort is not directly related to the current protests going on but Peter McCoy, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina, said this money will help law enforcement build better relationships with the community.
“It’s very important that we listen to what’s going on in our communities and how everyone is feeling right now,” he said. “That builds trust and relationships and I think that’s of the upmost importance.”
The 13 law enforcement agencies will be able to hire 63 more officers and the money will focus on violent crime, while the remainder of the awards will focus on a variety of issues including school-based policing to fund school resource officer positions, building trust and respect, and opioid education, prevention, and intervention.
The South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus said they will continue their conversations with colleagues until these issues are addressed.