Ravenel is a bridge, not a stage

Mount Pleasant and Charleston police departments were called to the Ravenel Bridge on Monday.

Leroy Burnell

If you park on the Ravenel Bridge, block traffic for five hours and essentially shut down two cities, the police can make you pay.

About $15.

Yes, the only recourse to thwart people who take our bridge hostage and mess up Lowcountry traffic is a parking ticket. And even that probably won’t hold up in court.

“There’s not anything we can charge them with if there’s no criminal intent,” says Mount Pleasant Police Capt. Sean Kenneally.

That could turn out to be the case in Monday’s unfortunate incident. A man drove to the top of the bridge just before morning rush hour, parked, then paced precariously close to the edge, apparently contemplating suicide.

Police eventually lured him down with pizza.

It is a sad situation when someone reaches that point. But it can’t help their sense of self-worth when they prompt some of the 30,000 or so bridge commuters to go all Van Halen on them, telling them to go ahead and jump.

The Ravenel Bridge has become Charleston’s biggest stage for folks looking to attract a lot of attention.

Sadly, some of them are actually looking for a way out — and the bridge offers one quick step out of this world.

But others just do it for the attention. In February 2012, Phillip DeClemente parked atop the Ravenel Bridge at the beginning of afternoon rush hour. He had written “Stay Away,” “Back Off” and “Game Over” on the windows of his Lexus SUV.

It didn’t look good, but he got a mental evaluation and passed. Later he told The Post and Courier that “I knew what I was doing,” but saw it as a way to bring attention to “injustice.”

Honk if you remember what the issue was.

In a case like that, people shouldn’t get off with a slap on the wrist. Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails, one of thousands of motorists caught up in Monday’s traffic madhouse, says there should be a law against people who do this sort of thing simply for attention’s sake.

“What if we’d had an emergency?” Swails says. “People are frustrated by it. We may need to consult with other cities, see how they handle it.”

That’s a good idea. Start with San Francisco — they have a bridge.

There is no way to repay the government for all the time and manpower spent on something like this. But that’s not the point.

“Our goal is preserving life,” Kenneally says. And he’s right.

Police will tell you that all the screaming at the guy and taking his picture, probably hurt traffic flow as much as anything. See, that’s the thing about people looking for attention — far too many are willing to give it to them.

Hopefully, the guy who messed up your day Monday will get the help he needs.

As for the others, well, police should probably introduce them to Mr. Taser.

An even better idea would be for them to take up residence at the grandstand in White Point Garden and yak on their cellphones until they feel better.

They won’t get as much attention, but at least there will be thousands fewer people wishing them ill.

And that should make them feel a little better.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com. You also can join his live chat at noon today at postandcourier.com.