‘They’re throwing bricks!’ Charleston’s impromptu street protest sparked tense police response

Charleston police kept an eye on a peaceful rally in Marion Square Wednesday night but faced a bigger challenge when a group of protesters took to the streets.

“They’re throwing bricks!”

An officer barked the warning into his radio as an object bounced off an officer’s vest and hit him in the face Wednesday night. The officer was part of a group who stood at Broad and King streets, trying to keep a throng of protesters marching in the middle of the streets away from the shops and bars a little farther north on King Street.

About 100 protesters broke off from a rally against police shootings in Marion Square to take their complaints to the streets. They marched south past the Market to The Battery, then turned around and marched north on King Street, chanting all the while and challenging police orders to get on the sidewalk.

Less than a week earlier, five police officers had been killed by a sniper at rally against police shootings in Dallas. Police across the nation have been on alert ever since. The main concern Wednesday in Charleston was to keep the protesters from blocking traffic.

Their concerns are evident in radio transmissions released Friday.

“They’re in the roadway,” an officer called out as the crowd marched past Market Street, their chants audible in the background. “They’re disobeying orders.”

More police were called in to keep an eye on things, including 74 from Charleston and 40 from Mount Pleasant. The throwing incident occurred when police tried to keep them from marching north on King Street past Broad Street.

“We don’t want them to come down King Street the wrong way,” a supervisor says.

“They’re talking about interrupting the merchants on King Street,” an officer reports. “Do we want to block it off? We need officers at King and Broad.”

Officers fanned out across King and Broad, trying to force the marchers back east toward Meeting Street, where traffic was two way.

“We’re locking arms,” an officer reports.“We’re locking arms.”

Hugh Wood, a sophomore at the College of Charleston, recorded the standoff from an upstairs window. He said he didn’t see anything thrown but witnessed a man trying to poke an officer with the pointy end of a red, black and green flag. He said detectives came by and made a copy.

“The video really reflects well on the cops,” he said.

Around 9:30 p.m., Officer Joseph Jacobs was hit when somebody threw something.

“Units, stand by, they’re throwing bricks,” an officer called out on his radio.

Johnson was treated at Roper Hospital later for facial lacerations and released.

A good number of the throng managed to bypass the officers and get on King Street again. Officers lined up at Queen Street to turn them aside again.

Police kept an eye on them as they made their way to Marion Square and dispersed. Several wearing anarchist symbols drew special attention.

“I would like for some of our plainclothes folks to kind of parallel those anarchists as they’re leaving, just to see where they go, until they get out of the area, please,” Chief Greg Mullen said on his radio.

After the crowd was gone, several teams of detectives swept through Marion Square to make sure nothing harmful was left behind. Other officers scoured side streets before reporting back with the all clear.

Both Black Lives Matter and the National Action Network put out statements distancing themselves from the street march.

Reach Dave Munday at 843-937-5553.