Activists to press for review board at North Charleston council meeting

Muhiyidin d’Baha hugs his sister Kim Duncan after being released from Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center on July 21.

After being stopped from speaking last week, members of the Black Lives Matter movement plan to make another attempt Thursday to ask North Charleston for community oversight of the city’s police department.

This time, they plan to do so at a meeting where comments from the public are allowed. Members of the group plan to attend Thursday’s 7 p.m. City Council meeting, according to a Facebook post.

The meeting includes a 30-minute public comment period, but those wishing to speak must notify municipal clerk Ellen Clark in writing. Speakers are limited to 3 minutes each.

Clark said Wednesday she will release the list of speakers after Thursday’s noon deadline.

“Black Lives Matter are trying to get some things on the table to address the issue of reforms,” said Ed Bryant, president of the NAACP chapter in North Charleston. “I applaud their attendance at City Council meetings. They have a right to go to them. Whether at City Council or on the street protesting, I support their efforts 100 percent.”

On July 21, Muhiyidin d’Baha, whose legal name is Muhiyidin Elamin Moye, 31, was charged with “congregating for an unlawful purpose” after he disrupted a City Council committee meeting, which allows public comment only on agenda items. The Charleston resident was taken to the county jail and released that night on a $470 bail.

Also that night, protester Abraham Jenkins, 21, of Charleston was stopped after leaving City Hall when he failed to use a turn signal while turning from Mall Drive onto West Montague Avenue, according to an incident report. He was arrested for second offense driving under suspension and taken to the county jail. He has since been released on bail.

D’Baha could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but has maintained that the city’s plans to form a citizens’ board to advise the police department are a “charade” and don’t include citizen input.

He attended meetings run by the city and the U.S. Department of Justice, where a document outlining the formation of a citizens board was drafted, and the two June community meetings where it was presented, officials said.

James Johnson, state president of the Al Sharpton-led National Action Network, said Wednesday he supports the activists. Last year, he met with the local Black Lives Matter group to express concerns about some of their tactics, such as issuing demands and disrupting traffic. After that, the group turned to peaceful protests, officials said.

“We’ve got the nation calling Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization,” Johnson said Wednesday. “That’s very insulting. I don’t see anything wrong with civil disobedience unless you’re hurting somebody. I want everybody to know that (NAN is) in support of Black Lives Matter. We are fighting the same issues, the same cause.”

That cause is the formation of an oversight committee.

North Charleston community members have been calling for a citizens’ police review board since Walter Scott, a black man, was shot to death after fleeing a traffic stop on April 4, 2015, by white police Officer Michael Slager. He got into a scuffle with Scott and said the motorist took his Taser. As Scott tried to run away, the officer shot him in a scene captured on a cellphone video. Slager is charged with murder and awaiting trial.

In the wake of the group’s demands for an oversight committee with subpoena powers, Mayor Keith Summey and Police Chief Eddie Driggers asked the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to take a look at the Police Department, identify what’s working and what isn’t, and make recommendations.

D’Baha is protesting that group’s proposal for a citizens’ board.

“It’s been over a year since the Walter Scott death and the city of North Charleston has not sat down with anybody to try to put something together as an advisory group,” Johnson said, adding that the COPS review provides only recommendations. “They need to know that Black Lives Matter will not give up.”

In an interview with Quintin Washington of Quintin’s Close-Ups, published Tuesday on YouTube, d’Baha said, if necessary, he’d form his own review board by getting police reports through public records requests.

“Once we have that information, we can identify which officers in our different neighborhoods are abusing their power, and when we demonstrate we can demonstrate to have those officers removed from our community,” he said. “So oversight is going to happen. Whether or not its sanctioned by the city is yet to be seen.”

Reach Brenda Rindge at 843-937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.