Protests over Floyd’s death sparks violence, curfews in SC

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Violent protests broke out Saturday in South Carolina over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white police officer pressed his knee on his neck.

Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said at a news conference that four of his officers were hurt, one seriously, and sent to a hospital for treatment. One required stitches, while another suffered a broken leg.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said deputies fired rubber bullets into a crowd that was attacking officers trying to save people who he said were being attacked by a mob. He called the move “very effective.”

“This group here is not going to be allowed to take over Columbia,” Lott said. “They’re not going to destroy the city. We are not going to let that happen.”

Miranda Parnell, a television reporter for WIS-TV was injured by rocks thrown amid protests outside the Columbia Police Department.

WIS anchor Judi Gatson tweeted that Parnell said “a person wearing a MAGA hat showed up at the rally, protestors confronted that person & then rocks were thrown ... one of them hitting Miranda.”

Parnell told The Associated Press that everything started peacefully until the crowd gathered in front of the city’s police department.

“They began throwing water bottles and sandwiches ... and as we were walking away, someone in a red hat showed up and protesters began chasing that person down. A new police line formed and some protesters began throwing rocks. I got caught in the cross fire,” she said.

“I was dazed at first,” she recalled. “I remember people asking me if I was OK and I kept saying ‘I think so. I don’t know.’ But then I felt blood running down my face and it had drenched my shirt and my cellphone and that’s when I went to the hospital,” Parnell said.

Parnell said doctors told her she was lucky because the rock missed a major artery and she wouldn’t need stitches.

“I know people are upset for a reason,” she said. “That’s something that can’t be ignored and I wanted to tell the story. I don’t want the message they’ve been trying to tell to get lost because I got hit. The vast majority of them just want justice and equality and that’s what they should take home in the end.”

Several hundred people participated in the demonstration, tearing down the U.S. and state flags in front of the police department’s headquarters. They also swarmed a Columbia police car, breaking its windows, also jumping on the hood and roof of a police SUV.

At least two police cars were burned, as well as cars in at least one downtown parking garage. In the city’s commercial district known as the Vista, windows at bars, stores and a popular restaurant were shattered.

There was no immediate word on whether arrests occurred.

Mayor Steve Benjamin issued a curfew that remains in effect for the city’s downtown area until 6 a.m. Monday. Columbia officials said it appears many of the protesters breaking laws and causing violence were from out of town.

In Charleston, hundreds participated in protests throughout the historic coastal city, flooding onto Interstate 26, defacing a Confederate statue near The Battery along the peninsula’s southern edge and flipping tables in the historic market area. Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds said officers were working to arrest a small group who “have no interest in peaceful protest.”

A curfew was set to go into effect in Charleston County at 11 p.m.


Meg Kinnard can be reached at


Reporter Jeffrey S. Collins contributed to this report.