'There must be accountability': South Carolina black lawmakers call for change
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -- Holding law enforcement officers accountable, passing a hate-crime bill and other changes: these are some of the things black South Carolina lawmakers say need to be addressed now in the wake of the protests.
These lawmakers say these racial issues have been things they've been trying to fix for years. They feel like they have momentum now and believe things will get accomplished as long as everyone works together and the community stays united.
The South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus held a press conference Wednesday at the statehouse. Just a few couple hundred yards away from that conference, protesters stood for the fifth day in a row.
Black lawmakers say they support the protesters' right to peacefully protest and thanked them for what they're doing. They did, however, speak out against the violence Columbia saw on Saturday night downtown and violence in Charleston.
They said they don't want the message of 'Black Lives Matter' to be steered the wrong way.
"We will not stand for those who hurt, who oppress, who profile because they are the bad apples. There must be accountability," Rep. Ivory Thigpen of Richland said.
Black lawmakers say they will be working closely with the rest of the general assembly and the governor on potential reform efforts. They would like to see full funding compliance for a body-camera law, and a panel that studies police reform in the state
A spokesperson for South Carolina Gov. ernor Henry McMaster said the governor is willing to work with lawmakers on any issues and he has an open-door policy.
"We feel very good about the dialogue we are having," Rep. Jerry Govan of Orangeburg said. "We know it's not going to happen overnight. We need to move with haste and urgency."
Also today, the United States Attorney's office announced 13 law enforcement agencies are receiving $8 million dollars to hire more officers and work on improving community policing.
Right now it's very important that we listen to what's going on in our communities. And how everyone is feeling right now," Peter McCoy, U.S. Attorney of the District of South Carolina said. "That builds trust and relationships and I think that's of the upmost importance right now."
The legislative black caucus said they would also like to see the passage of a state hate crimes bill by the end of the year. Lawmakers did introduce a hate crime bill in the House during this session. Some minor progress has been made but it still has a way to go.
Critics of that legislation in the past have said since there is already a federal hate crime law, they see no need for a state one.