The horrific, senseless, and utterly evil killing of the late Walter L. Scott is not a justifiable action. This post does not, in any way, attempt to justify it. This post is about why my state's lowcountry region has not been torn apart by vandalism and violence masquerading as protests. This is about why the North Charleston/Summerville area of South Carolina is not and will not become the next Ferguson, Missouri.
A week ago today, on Saturday, April 4th, Mr. Scott, a black man, was stopped by a white North Charleston police officer for a very minor infraction - I believe it was a broken taillight on his vehicle. In the course of the stop, Mr. Scott fled his vehicle and ran from the officer who gave chase. A taser was employed but ultimately the officer pulled his gun and shot the fleeing Mr. Scott a number of times in the back, causing Mr. Scott's tragic death. First accounts indicated the officer felt threatened because Mr. Scott tried to grab his taser, but an eyewitness took video of the event and he ultimately turned it over to the Scott family. The shooting occurred on Saturday, April 4th and on Tuesday, April 7th - just three (3) days later, the officer was charged with murder.
However, the Charleston area hasn't turned into Ferguson, Missouri. Here, we've had no hordes of people using Mr. Scott's death as an excuse to steal iPads or televisions. We've had no mobs taking to the streets to destroy the hard-earned property of business owners and pretending they are doing it as an act of "respect" to the late Mr. Scott. Very likely, Mr. Scott's family and friends own businesses and have worked hard at various enterprises. Surely, that was also the case in Ferguson, but it didn't stop the vandalism and violence there, which was largely committed by outside agitators. Why is South Carolina different?
It's different because we are not joiners and we are not followers. We don't join unions and we don't join gangs of thugs and we won't follow any outsiders who try to motivate such stupidity. Mr. Scott's family is a sterling example of South Carolina at its finest. They have been vigilant and forceful in insisting that the truth of their son's death be brought forward, and that the responsible officer be held to account. But they've only asked that the responsible party be brought to justice - they've not blamed the entire North Charleston police department for the criminal evil of one officer. In fact, two police officers on motorcycles escorted the hearse carrying Mr. Scott's body at his funeral today. The family has indicated that it wants Mr. Scott's death to demonstrate and motivate changes that need to be made in the power dynamics between officers and citizens. The Scott family has given strong and clear signals that they do not want, and would not appreciate, an invasion of outside agitators.
Should any agitators be flown or bussed into the lowcountry of South Carolina to try to instigate a campaign of violence, I expect they would encounter armed business owners and armed law enforcement officers who would travel to the area from all over our state. That is as it should be, because the tragic death of Mr. Scott is a South Carolina matter, to be dealt with by South Carolineans in the just, peaceful and strong manner that my state generally employs. Local leaders would not tolerate outside agitation and our state's Governor, Nikki Haley, would lend the full support of her office to keep the Charleston area as a peaceful place where respectful tributes to Mr. Scott can occur.
There is a prayer vigil planned tonight April 11th, the day of Mr. Scott's funeral, by local United Methodist Churches. It will be held at the sight of the shooting and those wishing to pay respect to the late Mr. Scott, to support his family, and to indicate their abhorrence for the act of this officer, will walk silently to one of the Methodist Churches. Participants won't be given the opportunity to vandalize businesses or liberate electronic devices. They will be given the chance to pay their respect and to indicate, by their presence, their support of Mr. Scott and his family.
Respect and support are important parts of South Carolina life. I'd wager that Mr. Scott's family hasn't had to cook a meal since his passing. Their friends and family have been there, tending to providing food and gathering with the family to join them in remembering Mr. Scott and celebrating his life and his legacy. They will be there in quiet ways as the days pass, and will join the family again, to support them when the Officer is brought before a South Carolina Court to face justice.
We're not joiners and we're not followers so you won't get us riled up and ready to go out and attack our community. And if you try to bring in outsiders to incite such violence, we will stand in support of business owners and officers in resisting and in overcoming such efforts. All of South Carolina mourns with the Scott family today. Mr. Scott's death was a South Carolina tragedy but I am very, very proud that the late Mr. Scott's parents are dealing with it as South Carolineans, not joining and not following and not seeking joiners or followers. I am not a member of his family and didn't have the privilege of knowing Mr. Scott, but I expect that his family would appreciate people remembering their son by giving a donation to his Church or the NAACP rather than by breaking into businesses and destroying their community.
Racism is evil, but so are violence and vandalism. Ferguson's leaders may have felt that they had to tolerate a certain amount of violence in order to prevent more, but South Carolina is not Ferguson. We'll not join you and we'll not follow you - but if you are here to incite trouble, we'll be glad to show you the way out of our state.
Rest in peace, Mr. Scott.