A dozen protesters interrupted a crowded dining room with chants of “black lives matter” during Sunday brunch at Hominy Grill in downtown Charleston, a restaurant official said.
Workers summoned Charleston police officers to the popular Rutledge Avenue restaurant around 11:30 a.m. after the demonstrators walked in and started chanting in the main dining hall. As diners surveyed a specials menu that included oxtail and grits, the protesters passed out fliers that decried Walter L. Scott’s shooting death by a North Charleston officer and area policing tactics that they say unfairly target black communities.
“They were just trying to get a point across,” said Dave Uecke, the restaurant’s director of operations. “They carried on for about a minute, but they left without a problem.”
None of the protesters were arrested, Charleston Police Department spokesman Charles Francis said.
“They left when the manager asked them to,” Francis said. “This was a very short encounter, and they were leaving as the first officer arrived.”
It’s the latest in a series of pop-up protests titled with the Twitter hashtag “#BlackBrunch.” Another had sprung up at the downtown Charleston restaurant High Cotton.
They have come in the wake of Scott’s April 4 killing in which Patrolman 1st Class Michael T. Slager faces a murder charge. A video showed the white officer shooting a fleeing Scott, who is black, in the back.
It’s the first demonstration related to Scott’s death since Black Lives Matter Charleston and other groups at times blocked traffic during rallies early last week on North Charleston streets. The tactics employed by the groups have drawn scrutiny from long-time civil rights activists and the city officials from whom they have asked for a change in policing policies.
At Hominy Grill, where long lines form outside for brunch on weekends, Uecke grew suspicious of one group of possible would-be diners Sunday morning because a member was chewing on a bagel. He figured that the eventual protester had just come better prepared for the line than others who were waiting for a chance to order huevos rancheros or the “Charleston nasty biscuit.”
A handful of college-age people then came in through the front door and started shouting their message in a dining room just to the right of the entrance, Uecke said.
They filmed the protest and later posted a video on YouTube.
The fliers they dropped promised their audience that they would “be out of your way momentarily,” but they first wanted to make a few points, which were listed on the paper.
The typed messages contended that the North Charleston Police Department’s account of the confrontation between Slager and Scott was “full of contradictions,” which were made known only when the video of the shooting was made public April 7.
That Slager was arrested doesn’t mean “full justice” has been served, the papers continued.
“It is part of a long-standing pattern whereby Charleston’s criminal justice system surveils, harasses, profiles, threatens, tickets, endangers and incarcerates black community members,” the fliers stated. “Justice will only be served when police are no longer an occupying force.”
Uecke said the disruption was not well-received.
“It was just a poor way to convey a message,” he said. “When someone is trying to eat breakfast, they’re probably not prone to hear someone’s view on social change.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information. The only other Charleston restaurant known to be the site of a #BlackBrunch protest is High Cotton. The group of protesters, only some of whom are white, also say they are not connected with Black Lives Matter Charleston.