COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Gov. Henry McMaster said the South Carolina National Guard is on alert and will be available around the state as needed, including in Charleston and Columbia, to help prevent further violence.
McMaster said state, county and city law enforcement authorities are also on alert in response to protests Saturday across the state over the death of George Floyd, the man who died Monday in Minnesota. His death, following an arrest during which a white police officer was seen holding his knee on Floyd’s neck for some eight minutes, touched off violent protests in Minneapolis and other cities across the nation.
“We are determined to see it things level off here in South Carolina and we do not experience the tragedies that they’ve had in other places,” McMaster said at a Sunday afternoon news conference in West Columbia.
He said it remains to be seen whether a statewide curfew will be issued.
He said the state welcomes protests, people speaking their mind, and exercising their Constitutional rights of freedom of assembly, freedom of speech to peaceably assemble and express their concerns.
“And we also we do not tolerate lawlessness and violence, and the destruction of property and harm to our people,” he said. “So, we are prepared.”
In Charleston, a peaceful protest Saturday afternoon transformed into rioting Saturday night with heavy damage reported to businesses in the Holy City.
“We’ll be delighted to have peaceful protests, anytime, anywhere, but not violence,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott called Floyd’s death “a tragic incident,” but encouraged people in South Carolina to not allow that to “metastasize into tragedies.”
“As I watched the video for Minnesota, my heart broke. I felt anger. I felt fear as an African American who enjoys jogging and walking in and doing things out in society I wondered how things had changed,” Scott said.
But he said in the five years since the shooting deaths of motorist Walter Scott in North Charleston and nine parishioners at Mother Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston, things had changed.
“I will tell you that so much progress can be seen,” Scott said. “It is visible today in our state is one of the reasons why I have confidence in the law enforcement leaders of this state, because they listened. It’s one of the reasons why I have confidence of the leaders and communities of color in the state, because they, too, listened to each other. If we are going to make significant progress in the state and we are, it will happen because we all take a step back from how we feel.”
And we stop. And we listen.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.