Louis Smith, an outspoken advocate on social justice issues in the Charleston area, was arrested Wednesday evening after police said he blocked a road while protesting near Doty Park in Summerville.
Smith, who runs the Community Resource Center in Summerville, faces a charge of disorderly conduct. A magistrate on Thursday morning released Smith on his own recognizance.
This summer, Smith has also been a vocal critic of the city of Charleston and its Palmetto Artisan Program, which allows adolescents to sell palmetto roses in select areas downtown. A teen was arrested in July for resisting arrest following a confrontation with a police officer after the 16-year-old was found in violation of the ordinance that allowed him to sell the roses.
Smith rose to the teenager's defense and called for the dissolution of the program. Earlier this month, Smith helped oversee a partnership between the RiverDogs baseball team and the Charleston Police Department that allowed select youth to sell palmetto roses at home games.
Meanwhile, he has been at odds with town officials over their decision to ban a black man from offering free tennis lessons at the park after he allegedly used "foul language" against tennis league captains, the Journal Scene reported. For at least two weeks, Smith and several others have been demonstrating near the park to voice their discontent.
The issue came to a head on Wednesday when Smith used a loud speaker during his demonstration near the park on North Laurel Street, according to a police report.
A video of the confrontation, captured by another demonstrator, showed the arrest.
A police officer told Smith that the use of the loudspeaker had been reported as a "disturbance" and asked Smith to refrain from using it.
"I don't want to throw the Constitution at you; I don't want to do that," Smith told the officer, according to the report. "You know I have freedom of speech."
The officer said in the report that he agreed Smith was within his First Amendment rights but that the loudspeaker was disruptive. The officer added that he attempted to explain to Smith that he was violating a town ordinance, but Smith kept speaking, according to the report.
"You want to shoot me ... shoot me," Smith said to the officer.
The police report indicates that the officer showed Smith the town ordinance, though it is not clear from the video or the document which ordinance he was referencing.
The officer left the scene but watched Smith from nearby, the report said.
Then Smith entered the roadway and stopped a vehicle, according to the report.
The officer told Smith that he was trying to reason with him and instructed him to stay out of the road so he didn't disrupt traffic. The officer again left the scene, according to the report. A short while later, Summerville police said they received another report of Smith being in the roadway with the loudspeaker.
When the officer responded again to the scene, authorities said he informed Smith there have been more complaints. Smith told the officer he had, indeed, been using the loudspeaker again, the report said.
"OK, so arrest me," Smith said in the video, turning his back to the officer.
"OK," the officer replied, handcuffing Smith.