April 19, 2016. ABCNews4.com
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg found out first-hand Monday night why many of his fellow leaders turned down an invitation to speak at the Charleston Area Justice Ministry rally Monday night.
More than 2,300 people attended the rally that sought the end to discriminatory practices.
They focused heavily on “investigatory stops”, which don’t result in a ticket or arrest. They said there were more than 130,000 investigatory stops in North Charleston and 127,000 in Charleston over the last five years and called it a form of harassment.
“They wonder why we have a broken system,” Pastor Thomas Dixon said. “It’s easy to see why it’s broken. It’s broken from the top down. But, they want to point fingers from the bottom up.”
Tecklenburg was asked six times if he would direct the police chief to work with a task force to monitor and reduce those stops. Each time he said no.
“It’s not the stops, it’s the way people have been treated in the past that’s wrong. If we’re enforcing the law, I can’t tell my police officers not to enforce the law. I’m going to ask them to do it respectfully and without discrimination,” Tecklenburg said.
The new mayor brought up the city’s Illumination Project, which Charleston has started to create a dialogue with the community but the ministers weren’t impressed.
“We don’t need to wait for the Illumination Project to illuminate something we already know,” one person told him.
Ministry leaders also asked if the city would hire a private police auditing company. Tecklenburg said that’s something they’re already looking into for multiple city departments.
Tecklenburg was just one of many public officials invited to the rally, but only a handful showed up.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and Police Chief Eddie Driggers both declined.
“My experience with the Justice Ministries has been bad,” Summey said. “During their last meeting they came in and were disrespectful to our law enforcement where they would only allow them to say yes or no to their questions. Sometimes they wouldn’t even allow them to hold the mic.”
A city spokesman says when they have met with the group previously, they were simply rebuked.
“When you’re willing to engage us in positive conversation how we can better this community, how we can work together, then I will attend a meeting,” Summey said.