So Wednesday afternoon a group of people decided to protest police brutality and racial profiling by blocking traffic on the Ravenel Bridge.
At rush hour.
Some of these folks — who were chanting “black lives matter” — refused to move when they were ordered off the bridge by police. They locked arms, holding PVC pipes, and eventually just sat down in the middle of the bridge.
One of them even grabbed a detective by the arm. That was dumb on so many levels.
First, resisting arrest while holding what might be considered a weapon is a good way to get hurt. It’s not police brutality when officers have a reason to fear for their safety — it’s a legitimate use of force.
Cops don’t get paid enough to take beatings, so the protesters are lucky they didn’t get injured instead of simply arrested.
But the bigger problem here is trying to get a message out by inconveniencing other people. In fact, that’s a great example of how NOT to get anything done, despite the urging of the late civil rights leader, Bayard Ruskin.
He once said, “We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers. Our power is in our ability to make things unworkable. The only weapon we have is our bodies. And we need to tuck them in places so wheels don’t turn.”
Maybe that worked in the 1960s, but it’s hard to imagine that anyone stuck in their car, trying to get home, saw that bumbling protest and thought, “I need to join their cause.”
No, most of them were probably thinking more along the lines of “I wish these idiots would get out of the way.”
In the month since Walter Scott was shot and killed by North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager, the Lowcountry has been inundated by protests.
That is understandable. The video of Slager shooting a fleeing Scott is horrifying, an inexcusable abuse of police power.
Even people historically prone to dismiss claims of brutality and racial profiling against the North Charleston Police Department had to concede that it was terrible, tragic and just plain wrong.
People have a right to be upset, to demand justice. But a strange thing happened on the way to the protest: the city of North Charleston did the right thing.
Slager was fired and charged with murder after city officials learned of the video’s existence.
That proved to be a problem for protesters, who suddenly could not demand the usual — that an officer be fired and charged with murder. The city beat them to the punch.
To channel their outrage, the protesters had to take a different tact, and they chose to demand something that has led to a month-long standoff: a citizens panel with subpoena powers to investigate cases of police brutality.
Mayor Keith Summey has refused to create such a panel, in part because he says he doesn’t have such power. Even he can’t subpoena people.
Experts say City Council, or even the Legislature, could likely create such a panel. But that brings up other questions, including this one: Who do you put on it?
It would be hard to argue that folks with no better sense than to block a bridge at rush hour should be handed the power of the court.
This is a complex problem. Critics of North Charleston police say the department focuses all of its attention on black communities, which leads to racial profiling.
The police say they allocate their resources to where statistically the most crime occurs.
And that’s where it stands. Both sides make good points, backed up by the stats. And that makes a simple solution hard to come by.
The groups who continue their protests against the police want action, and the city would be wise to do something soon before somebody else gets hurt. This isn’t Baltimore, or Ferguson, but it certainly is not going away.
Some people are so desperate to protest something that they actually held a candlelight vigil outside the jail for the people arrested on the bridge. As if they were martyrs.
The solution here may have come from Ed Bryant, president of the North Charleston chapter of the NAACP. He made a good point to The Post and Courier last week, suggesting the city put together a review board of attorneys and professional investigators.
“When it gets down to the nuts and bolts, you’re not doing anything without experts,” he said. “You can’t have a Girl Scout cookie club investigating criminals at the Police Department.”
That makes sense. If we need an independent panel to investigate the police, it should be someone with the knowledge of the law and procedures to actually make informed decisions.
You know, people with better sense than to block the Ravenel Bridge at rush hour.
That isn’t helping a thing. Just the opposite, in fact.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.