Law enforcement increasing presence, visibility at State House

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - After a number of heated protests and a Monday night fight over the Confederate flag, law enforcement

is beefing up its presence at the State House.

With protesters clashing under the shadow of the flag, Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith urged peace and respect during a State House news conference on Tuesday evening.

"We want to continue the positive atmosphere, the spirit of love, and the spirit of peace that we witnesses in Charleston and across our great state,” he said.

Around the State House, patrol cars are lined up and ready to go. Many of them are lined up in columns between state office buildings.

The latest incident happened Monday night.

New amateur video shows a Confederate Flag supporter get out of his truck

after witnesses say an anti-flag protester snatched a battle flag from one of the trucks parading by State House grounds. The man, who was later arrested, doesn't even seem to get in a punch as the anti-flag crowd jumps him.

"We always have the assets on stand-by,” said Director Smith. “As a matter of fact, within minutes of the incident, we had at eight or nine additional officers to respond. Plus, working with our partners over at the Columbia Police Department, they were able to respond expeditiously as well."

Now, strategy appears to be changing with the law enforcement presence much more visible. Director Smith won't say how many officers and troopers he's moved to the State House, but he says, if he's learned anything from Monday night's fight, it's that heavy enforcement is necessary.

"A strong law enforcement and deploying our law enforcement tactics to diffuse the situation that's proved to be very successful for us,” he said.

Smith said they're also considering "designated protest zones" and other measures to keep the State House safe for all.

"No one should be afraid to visit our State House,” Smith said.

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