Culprit sought who hit officer with ‘brick-like material’ at protest

Police keep an eye on the rally Wednesday night in Marion Square.

Charleston police on Thursday said they were trying to identify the person who hurled a large piece of concrete or brick that hit an officer as protesters marched on a downtown street.

A video captured the encounter Wednesday night when the police tried to clear the demonstrators off a one-way portion of King Street about 9:30 p.m., Charleston Police Department spokesman Charles Francis said. The video was not available Thursday night.

An incident report says officers formed a line to hold King Street, at which point protesters began to push on the officers in an attempt to break the line. Shortly after, police officer Joseph Jacobs was hit with the object in his protective vest; it bounced off and hit him in his right cheek, the report states.

He was taken to Roper Hospital for about 30 minutes and then released with mild swelling and lacerations to his right cheek.

The confrontation came after a permitted protest in Marion Square over police-involved killings. A portion of the hundreds who participated started to march, and that wasn’t allowed, Francis said.

“The police will work hard to provide a safe and secure environment for citizens and police officers, and maintain peace and order through the use of appropriate measures,” Police Chief Greg Mullen said in a statement. “Violence of any type against police officers or the general public during protest or demonstrations is not acceptable and will be addressed promptly.”

In recent weeks, police departments in cities nationwide have clashed at times with people protesting killings, including the deaths of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota. Such rallies locally after Walter Scott’s shooting death last year in North Charleston were peaceful.

Members of the Black Lives Matter Charleston protest group said they left Wednesday night’s rally before 9 p.m. Most of the demonstrators who stayed behind, they said, were not part of their group.

Francis, the police spokesman, called it a “sub-group” of protesters who left the square and starting marching downtown “in violation of the permit.” Officers tried to accommodate the unplanned march, but the participants refused to stay on the sidewalk and “disrupted traffic,” Francis said in the statement.

As the group walked down King Street near Broad Street, where the road is two lanes of one-way traffic, the officers decided to intervene because the demonstrators were “putting themselves and others in danger,” Francis added.

The police hope to identify the culprit and make an arrest.

They will still allow people to freely express themselves under the First Amendment, the police said. But it’s important to remember the legal guidelines of a permit, Francis added.

“Police and city officials will continue to work with protesters to ensure their events are neither disrupted nor disruptive,” he said.

Melissa Boughton and Dave Munday contributed to this report.