Soda City Justice
UPDATE: RSVP to join us at the next Columbia City Council meeting, June 16 at 2pm, here: https://www.facebook.com/events/613734175910925
Here's what happened:
Over Memorial Day weekend, thousands of people marched into the streets to protest the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and many others. The vast majority of people who joined these protests under the banner of "I Can't Breathe" South Carolina were peaceful, but a handful of people - The Richland County Sheriff alleges they were outside instigators affiliated with the "Boogaloo movement" - instigated violence by breaking windows and setting police cars on fire near the Columbia Police Department headquarters in the Vista.
In response, and a terrible mistake of overreaction, the Mayor and the City Council unanimously declared a curfew on Sunday May 31. This lead to the violent arrest of dozens of peaceful protesters Sunday and Monday, and gave the police and Richland Sheriff's department an excuse to respond with overwhelming and unnecessary violence. Numerous journalists and videographers have documented Columbia Metro and Richland County officers pointing guns at unarmed civilians, kneeling on their necks, and firing tear gas and pepper spray indiscriminately. Scroll down for a few examples (trigger warning - police violence)
Thanks to the efforts of volunteers at the Soda City Bail fund, most of our friends and neighbors have since been released. A number of people arrested have disputed their charges, and some have gotten them dismissed or reduced. But the accountability rests with our elected leaders: the City Council, Mayor Steve Benjamin and elected Sheriff Leon Lott, who is up for election again on June 9.
Use this page to Demand these elected leaders:
- Drop all charges against peaceful protesters arrested in the last week, and refund their bail or re-invest it in community building, not more police;
- Defund the Police, and immediately move to fire all officers found to have engaged in illegal chokeholds, pointing weapons at civilians, unnecessarily arresting civilians, or otherwise threatening peaceful protesters;
- Ban the use of teargas and other weapons of war on civilian populations;
- Apologize to the people of Columbia and the Midlands for the ill-advised curfew, and pledge to make amends by considering carefully the demands of protest movements calling for the preservation of black lives, including but not limited to:
Some photos of police violence sanctioned by the City Council, Mayor Benjamin, and Sheriff Lott