Graham speaking (copy)

Five people have been charged with malicious mischief after police say they threw water balloons at protesters outside the Charleston office of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. File

It all started with a green water balloon.

Now, five teens — three 18-year-olds and two 17-year-olds — face misdemeanor charges of malicious mischief after Mount Pleasant police say they threw water balloons at protesters Monday afternoon.

According to an incident report from the Mount Pleasant Police Department, a green object was tossed from a passenger window of a gold Ford F-150 truck and hit a woman who was protesting outside of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham's Mount Pleasant office, 530 Johnnie Dodds Blvd.

Martha Rhodes, 41, said she was one of the protesters hit by a water balloon. At the time, Rhodes said she was holding a sign that read "Bigotry destroys democracy."

"I didn't honestly realize it was a water balloon." Rhodes said Tuesday. "I was a little bit shaken up. One of my concerns has been the normalization of behavior that we wouldn't have found acceptable until now."

As officers were trying to see if anyone else was hit by balloons at the Monday protest, they reportedly heard sounds of water balloons breaking in the area.

"It's those pickup trucks," people yelled, according to incident reports.

Officers said they then spotted a second pickup truck, a black Toyota Tacoma, and followed the two trucks down Mathis Ferry Road. Police said the trucks turned onto Seaport Lane, where a traffic stop was conducted of the black Toyota Tacoma. Officers blocked the only exit until more units could arrive.

After seeing two magazines loaded with .223-caliber bullets inside the vehicle, an officer asked the driver and a minor to get out of the vehicle and to sit on the tailgate of the truck. An officer told the teens — one from Isle of Palms, one from Awendaw and three from Mount Pleasant — that they could be charged with assault. 

One of the males said they did in fact throw water balloons, and officers then asked the teen whether he knew the driver of the other pickup truck.

A 17-year-old confirmed he did and then messaged his friends and told them to meet them at their location as the officer requested.

When three teenagers in the other truck arrived on the scene, officers asked one of them what they were thinking when they threw water balloons at protesters.

An 18-year-old responded he "threw water balloons at a bunch of liberals."

The protest held Monday was in opposition to Graham's support of Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump's controversial pick for education secretary.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.