COLUMBIA, S.C. — As in many cities around the U.S., protesters took to the streets of Columbia Saturday to protest the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after an incident involving Minneapolis police.
The peaceful march began in front of City Hall and headed to the State House where the multi-racial crowd of about 1,000 listened to speakers and joined together to sing “Amazing Grace.”
Along the way, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin joined in the march, handing out protective masks and water to protesters.
Once at the State House, the crowd respectfully listened to speeches from local leaders, including SC House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, for around two hours.
After the speeches concluded, a smaller group marched over to Columbia Police Department Headquarters on Justice Square along Washington Street.
At this point, the once peaceful protest began to turn chaotic.
Reports came in of a man in a MAGA hat trying to incite the crowd, water bottles being thrown at police, a woman taken to an area hospital. Some protesters tried to calm others in the crowd and diffuse the situation as it looks as if the day might spin out of control.
Columbia Police, along with personnel from the Richland County Sheriff's Department and other law enforcement agencies, tried to contain the crowd during the afternoon.
Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook announced four CPD officers were injured in confrontations with protesters over the course of the afternoon, no Columbia Police officers fired any weapon.
More cars were set on fire inside city garages. Munitions that had been stored in the trunks of police cars now burning begin to explode. No one was hurt, but the pops of overheated ammunition can be heard.
Mayor Benjamin and City Council announced a 6 p.m. curfew for portions of downtown Columbia. The curfew is in effect until Monday, June 1. This is in addition to the curfew that was already in place due to the COVID-19 crisis.
As events continue to unfold, local community leaders take to social media.
From the President and CEO of Columbia Chamber of Commerce:
Former Dean at UofSC's School of Journalism:
UofSC Student Government leaders:
UofSC's men's basketball coach Frank Martin:
Throughout the evening, law enforcement continued to clear the downtown area. Damage to storefronts occurs in the Vista as agitators moved from Justice Square into the Gervais Street area.
By around 10 p.m., the Vista area of Columbia seemed calm and quiet.
And the hope that the once peaceful message of the morning doesn't get lost in the chaos of the day is shared.