COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Armed law enforcement officials lined the outside of the South Carolina State House steps on Inauguration Day, in case of armed protests or violence that never came.
Less than 20 people with different reasons for showing up to the State House grounds gathered for a few hours to be heard Wednesday.
Some were there in support of former President Donald Trump, some came to speak out against all forms of government, others wanted to pray, and a few just wanted to see if anything was going on after hearing chatter about potential protests.
South Carolina law enforcement officials say they were ready for whatever may have happened Wednesday.
In a message to all 50 states after the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill, the FBI warned capital cities of potential violence: a message South Carolina officials took it seriously.
“Over the years, obviously we’ve had to prepare for events like this, peaceful protests. Some that we didn’t think would maybe not be quite so peaceful, so it’s one of those things where we have a playbook to work by,” said Chief Mark Keel, the head of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. " And we put all our folks together who work up details and they came up with a plan. And we staffed a plan. And we have a plan in place to provide the people to express their First Amendment rights to free speech,” Keel added.
Keel said SLED worked in coordination with the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Natural Resources, the Columbia Police Department, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, City of Columbia officials, and others to make sure there was no chaos in the Palmetto State.
“We don’t want what you’re seeing in some places, and I think we’ve been very fortunate here. We’ve had our instances we are not proud of obviously this past spring and summer,” Keel said.
The head of SLED added his main goal for this potentially turbulent time was to make sure citizens were safe and those who wanted to protest or celebrate could do so peacefully.
Keeping the peace is what motivated retired Army National Guardsman David Lee to put on a camouflage vest, a friend’s Charleston Police Department badge, and a hat with President Trump’s name on it and go to the State House.
Lee said he was at the rally that took place before the violence on Capitol Hill earlier this month, but once a group of people started storming the Capitol, he said he turned the other way.
“I hate what happened at the Capitol. We didn’t want that to happen because there are a few fringe groups I guess there that decided to. Everyone in the crowd was talking peacefully,” Lee recalled. “We are here to make sure no one goes to our State House and no one gets hurt,” he added about why he came to Columbia Wednesday
Lee also said he came to show support to the law enforcement keeping the State House safe and for the South Carolina lawmakers addressing constituent concerns.
However, lingering in the back of his mind when he was looking at the different uniforms and officials around him was the lack of security he witnessed in DC.
“I don’t think they thought it was going to happen either, I probably saw 15 cops, I saw more policemen at a football game,” he said.
While he was happy with the law enforcement presence, Lee said he wished there were more people standing with him “four our Capitol” and “peace”.
Moving forward, Chief Keel hopes that people continue remaining peaceful and stay vigilant because his team is not lowering their guard.
“I think the bottom line is we are all reaching out and I think we all need to reach out and work in our communities and trust in our communities and build the trust and confidence,” he said.