A couple of particularly frightening photos have been circulating on the internet. One shows an unarmed woman calmly walking down the street holding her cell phone as at least four law enforcement officials train their weapons on her. Another shows one of those officers with his rifle pointed directly at her throat (below).
On the internet, photos can represent whatever the person posting them wants. Some on the left have said that they are photos of President Trump’s Portland Gestapo threatening a citizen. Some on the right have said the officers represent coronavirus overreach on the part of government because the woman is not wearing a mask.
Gazette Chicago went out and got the real story. We found that neither internet rumor is correct, although the left’s view comes closer to reality than the right’s.
These photos were taken by a freelance photographer known as Crush Rush on May 31 in Columbia, SC. The officers are not Trump Gestapo, but are from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), whose mission is to provide assistance to law enforcement agencies and to conduct investigations. Not a group one expects to be outfitted in full battle gear, but that’s the state of the nation in 2020.
The occasion was a peaceful protest of the George Floyd murder. The woman’s boyfriend was detained by SLED while he was protesting peacefully, sitting on the ground. SLED apprehended him. The woman approached the officers, asking why they were detaining the man, what was happening to him, and why. “Her hands were visible the whole time and she presented no threat,” Crush Rush said.
The main armed officer in the photos raised his weapon as she approached. As she drew back and sideways to move out of the line of fire, the officer kept pace with her with the gun constantly pointed at her for at least 12 seconds. If that doesn’t sound like much time, try spending 12 seconds with a gun pointed at your throat and see how quickly the time passes.
The woman withdrew, and SLED arrested the peaceful, sitting protester and charged him with looting—in an area where there had been no looting—a block away from a police station, with police all over the area. Those pursuing justice in this case actually used the photos successfully to exonerate the protester.
A good result for an arrest that never should have been made, featuring guns that never should have been drawn. But in a Trump-generated atmosphere militarizing various governmental agencies, who could have expected anything less? We look forward to a new occupant of the White House after the November election to create an atmosphere of respect for citizens’ constitutional right to protest, a de-militarization of law enforcement agencies, and a return to their fulfilling a mission of protecting American citizens—and the peace—instead of taking up arms against them.