Charleston, South Carolina – The South Carolina American Civil Liberties Union and SC for Criminal Justice Reform are calling for changes to a preliminary report on the Charleston Police Department’s response to riots and protests.
The activist organizations claim that the wording and initial findings of the after-action report do not correspond with ACLU staff on scene and interviews conducted with protesters.
On Thursday, the groups sent a joint letter to Mayor John Tecklenburg, Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds and city councilmembers criticizing the report which details law enforcement’s response during the riot and protests on May 30 and 31.
ACLU SC executive director Frank Knaack said his biggest concern is with the police use of force with protesters on May 31 in Marion Square, the day after the riot downtown.
“I was there as a legal observer. I witnessed firsthand the police response to a number of non-violent protests,” Knaack said. “Law enforcement responded by firing projectiles, rubber bullets and tear gas at people exercising their right to protest, and then try to justify it by pointing to things that happened at a different time and a different place by different people. So we are deeply concerned with that.”
SC for Criminal Justice Reform founder Allie Menegakis said although she has been impressed with CPD’s transparency in sharing use of force policies, she felt the May 31 response and preliminary after-action report was a “step backwards.”
“We were really hopeful that CPD was going to be releasing their after-action report with a lot more information, not just about the damage to the businesses but also the damage to people’s liberties and peaceful protesters from that weekend,” Menegakis said.
Menegakis said she wants to work with CPD and city officials to amend the report to include more information and eyewitness statements from the weekend that her organization has gathered.
“We want to sit down with the agencies. We want to work together,” Menegakis said. “We want to increase transparency and work toward maybe policy procedure changes, training changes, ordinance changes.”
The Charleston Police Department released a statement responding to the joint letter by the groups saying:
“While this letter appears to misstate several important facts regarding the events of May 30-31, the Charleston Police Department welcomes all feedback on the preliminary After Action report, and encourages citizens to participate in the official public comment period at the next Public Safety Committee meeting of Charleston City Council on October 28.”