Business owners awake to destruction after SC protests

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Some business owners in South Carolina swept up broken glass, boarded windows and took stock of ransacked shelves Sunday after protests erupted into violence across the state.

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Broken glass littered sidewalks outside storefronts in downtown Charleston, where restaurants and shops just recently reopened after being shut down because of the coronavirus. Hundreds turned out Saturday for what began as peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to Floyd's neck, but spiraled into vandalism and violence overnight.

Brian Lucier found a large stone used to smash the front windows of his shop, King's Lead Cigar Lounge.

“All this just adds insult to injury,” Lucier told The Post and Courier. “We’ve been bleeding for three months now and then this happens.”

Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds said 10 people had been arrested in relation to the protests. He said there were no serious injuries.

However, diners and restaurant staff at the Stars Rooftop & Grill Room were rattled at about 8:30 p.m. Saturday when protesters started throwing chairs at the front window, said Heather Green, one of the restaurant's operators. She said staff locked the front door and evacuated customers through a back entrance before protesters smashed their way inside and ransacked the manager's office.

“It started to feel like everything was going to be OK, and that we were finally getting back to normal,” Greene said. “And now this happens.”

In the state capital of Columbia, Police Chief Skip Holbrook said Sunday more than dozen arrests were made overnight and 15 police officers and sheriff's deputies suffered injuries during volatile demonstrations.

Some protesters threw rocks at police and set fire to at least two police cars, ignoring pleas from fellow demonstrators to refrain from violence. On Sunday morning, crews at businesses throughout the downtown commercial district swept up broken glass and affixed sheets of plywood to busted-out windows and doors.

During a news conference in Columbia later Sunday, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott — who, as the only black Republican in the Senate, has previously given a series of speeches on race, including his numerous experiences getting pulled over by police — referenced the 2015 death of Walter Scott, an unarmed black South Carolina motorist shot to death by a white police officer during a traffic stop in North Charleston.

Sen. Scott said that, as in the Floyd case, that incident was captured on video, but resulted in only nonviolent protests.

“We cannot have distractions especially fueled by violence,” Scott said. “Protesters, be heard, be seen, but be orderly.”

At that same news conference, Gov. Henry McMaster said the National Guard was on alert to activate if needed, urging protesters to take action but stay peaceful.

“We welcome conversation. We welcome protest, people speaking their mind, we welcome it, and we welcome it every time," McMaster said. “We’re better because of it, but we do not tolerate violence.”

Several cities in South Carolina remained under curfew, including Columbia's downtown area. On Sunday, the mayor of Myrtle Beach instituted a “state of civil emergency” in that city due to the threat of possible unrest.

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Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP