Lexington County law enforcement agencies vigilant as West Columbia imposes curfew Saturday night du
West Columbia, SC – The City of West Columbia’s Mayor Tem Miles declared a state of emergency Saturday night after a day of civil unrest in Columbia. He also imposed a curfew overnight to ensure the safety of West Columbia’s citizens and visitors.
Saturday was tumultuous in many major cities across the country. Protesters were out in force as part of the “I Can’t Breathe” movement that’s swept the nation this week. This sad chain of events began after George Floyd, a black man, died in the custody of Minneapolis police officers. Since then, there has been looting, vandalism, and fires set in many of the nation’s largest cities. People, including law enforcement officers, have died as peaceful protest dissolved into major rioting. Businesses, many of which were minority owned, and other public and private properties have been damaged or destroyed.
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A protest that was organized in Columbia for Saturday was supposed to be peaceful. That protest eventually turned violent as some protesters marched from the SC State House toward the headquarters of the City of Columbia Police Department. There were reports of injuries and rioting as patrol cars were set ablaze and objects were thrown at the law enforcement officers who were protecting their headquarters and other city and privately owned assets.
A second wave of protest was to begin later Saturday evening in Columbia. After accessing the situation and considering the problems that occurred earlier in the day, that second gathering was called off. Still, some people did come. Those protesters found law enforcement officers from across the Midland’s and the State of South Carolina prepared and waiting in the event there was a repeat of what had happened earlier in the day.
Mayor Miles of West Columbia issued his order for the curfew after a group causing civil unrest gathered near the Gervais Street Bridge. The City of West Columbia Police Department eventually closed access to that bridge at one point and limited access in and out of Columbia. They were assisted by deputies from the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department’s Patrol and Special Operations Divisions. The City of Cayce’s Department of Public Safety also went on high alert as they have an access point to and from Columbia running through their city too.
Other Lexington County municipalities were closely monitoring the situation as it unfolded Saturday night. The cities closest to the Congaree River and town’s that parallel interstates and feeder routes into Columbia had their ranks bolstered by deputies from the county in the event violence ignited. All were watching for any sign of troubles.
The Irmo Police Department was closely monitoring its areas closest to I-26 and Columbiana Mall. Irmo abuts Columbia at several points. At one time, it appeared as if protesters were travelling to Columbia and stopping in several cities and small towns just prior to entering the city. It was believed they were doing so to fuel up and organize their numbers before continuing downtown.
The curfew was is effective beginning at 9: p.m. Saturday. It expired at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 31, 2020. Miles order prohibited many activities during the curfew. The restrictions were:
(1) Be or travel upon any public street, alley or roadway or upon public property unless such travel is necessary to obtain medical assistance;
(2) Possess off one's own premises, buy, sell, give away or otherwise transfer or dispose of any explosives, firearms, ammunition or dangerous weapon of any kind;
(3) Sell beer, wines or intoxicating beverages of any kind; or possess or consume the same off one's own premises; or
(4) Sell gasoline or any other similar petroleum products or any other combustible or inflammable substances.
It remains to be seen what will happening locally as this movement continues. Minneapolis has fired all the officers that were involved in the George Floyd arrest. One has since been charged in Floyd’s death.