There is a difference between violent rioters and peaceful citizens expressing their freedoms of assembly and speech. The country has recently seen many examples of criminals like Antifa laying waste of the streets of our cities. But there have been, and are, those protesting the death of George Floyd in a peaceful manner. To facilitate that process, one law enforcement executive in Greenville, SC has hit upon a clever and calm strategy.
LifeZette talked to local resident and SC GOP political operative Stacy Shea about the backstory and about what recently happened in Greenville.
Shea: “In the wake of violent, nationwide riots, Greenville, South Carolina is an outlier. This isn’t the first time we’ve shared a tense moment in our community or in our state. In 2017 anti and pro-Confederate monument demonstrators held peaceful, simultaneous rallies in Greenville, on either side of the monument in question. In 2015, our state came together in a show of peace and solidarity following the murder of nine black worshippers inside the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston by Dylann Roof.
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“On the first day of protests over the death of George Floyd, Greenville Mayor Knox White joined in and made remarks supportive of their cause. He stated support for the protests and that he felt outrage is appropriate. Other elected officials including South Carolina House Rep. Jason Elliott, R-22nd district, and GOP Greenville City Council member John DeWorken attended the protest, sharing the event on social media. Their presence left some wondering, do they think the Greenville City Police or the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office are part of the police brutality problem? All a bit odd since we’ve yet to see either of them sponsor or advocate for any sort of legislation addressing this topic.
“The linchpin to these protests remaining peaceful has been the leadership of our law enforcement community. On Saturday evening as protestors began to range outside of city limits, Greenville County Sheriff Hobart Lewis took to a bullhorn, instructing them to move to the agreed upon space inside of city limits. Later that evening, as rumors of potential threats of looting were rampant, Sheriff Lewis displayed a calm show of force by directing deputies to stage and disperse throughout various areas. By this, any potential looting or violent rioting was deterred before it began. In a further move to deescalate, Sunday morning Sheriff Lewis met and prayed with protestors, he listened to their concerns, and offered his own perspective. He even marched and they welcomed him.”
Sheriff Lewis also, by making himself a visible ally of their peaceful purposes, co-opted the protest. His act of marching with them not only showed solidarity with their demeanor, but it put him in a vital place to monitor anything amiss and respond to it quickly and decisively. By controlling the tenor of the protest from the inside, and by strategically deploying his deputies in a show of force to forestall any looting, Lewis played both angles like a boss. It also reminded voters of the importance of local elections. When protests are peaceful, or also before they may become violent, this kind of play is a smart move. It should serve as an example across America.