Protesters' deadline not met, 'resistance phase' looming

Muhiyidin d'Baha and others with Black Lives Matter pray before holding a press conference at North Charleston City Hall demanding a citizens review board for the city. Wade Spees/Staff Thursday, April 9, 2015 Walter Scott shooting by police officer Michael Slager

A deadline given to the city of North Charleston came and went Friday night without Mayor Keith Summey adhering to demands that he hold an emergency meeting to discuss the creation of a Citizens Advisory Committee with subpoena powers to review police.

The next step? Resistance, according to Black Lives Matter, the coalition of concerned citizens that issued the demand.

The group called for such a board in the wake of the April 4 shooting death of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, at the hand of a white North Charleston officer, Patrolman 1st Class Michael T. Slager.

The fired officer was charged with murder after video surfaced Tuesday of him firing eight shots toward Scott’s back. But local civil rights groups and community members have insisted more needs to be done.

“We made a humble request,” Muhiyidin D’Baha, a spokesman for the group, said during a rally and candlelight vigil minutes before the 7 p.m. deadline. “If this is not an emergency, I don’t know what an emergency is.”

The organization will rest Saturday, the day of Scott’s funeral, out of respect for his family D’Baha said. Demonstrations in the organizations’s “resistance phase” could begin as early as midnight Sunday, he said.

Regarding the group’s request, Summey said Friday, “I can’t give them what they want.”

Summey consulted with council members and city employees on Thursday when deciding whether to allow D’Baha, to address a City Council meeting that night because he wasn’t listed on the agenda. Ultimately, Summey decided to give d’Baha two minutes to speak if he wouldn’t interrupt the council meeting.

Summey said he believes a meeting scheduled next week between him, D’Baha, two city representatives and two Black Lives Matter representatives will be more productive than convening an emergency City Council meeting to discuss the issue.

Summey also said he doesn’t have the authority to grant subpoena powers.

Driggers pointed out that “the (county) grand jury is a group of our peers who live in this area with subpoena powers.”

In addition, North Charleston already has a police advisory panel comprised of residents from throughout the city, Summey said. He added that he will look into whether the committee needs to be expanded.

The rally held by Black Lives Matter lasted well into the night, with the group showing no signs of walking away from the issue. A citizens’ review board is necessary, the group said, because North Charleston couldn’t be trusted to monitor itself.

The event at North Charleston’s City Hall, 2500 City Hall Lane, was attended by about 75 community members who shared stories of alleged wrongdoings on the part of local police, and pleas for Scott’s death not to go in vain.

“It’s a shame before God what took place Saturday,” one woman said, speaking into a megaphone. “My heart hurts for the family. ... No one should have to go through that. You don’t just shoot someone down like that — in the back. That’s for cowards.”

Also among Friday night’s gathering was local resident Frank Martin, who said he was a teacher, but would not reveal from which school. He answered questions about police officer traffic stop protocol and gave advice about the correct way to react during an encounter.

“We need law enforcement because people don’t always do what they’re supposed to do, but we need to know our rights,” he said to the crowd gathered around him.

Martin said for individuals who knew they might have a warrant or were without a driver’s license or registration not to panic during a traffic stop.

“The best thing to do is actually not to resist,” he said. “The fine is not as bad as losing your life.”

Another man in the group said that as a black male, he felt it was important to always know proper protocol when dealing with law enforcement.

Robert Behre contributed to this report. Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.