South Carolina lawmakers plan a hearing to ask officials why the Ku Klux Klan and New Black Panthers Party were allowed to hold rallies at the Statehouse at the same time earlier this month.
State Sen. John Courson told The State newspaper the number of officers needed to protect people at the dueling July 18 rallies was the largest police presence he has seen at the capitol in 30 years as a legislator.
The committee will ask representatives of the state Department of Administration, which handles rally permits, and state Bureau of Protective Services, which oversees security on the State House grounds, to testify and answer questions at a hearing Tuesday, Courson and Peeler said. State Law Enforcement Division officials also are expected.
The rallies came a week after the Confederate flag was removed from the front lawn of the Statehouse, a contentious decision.
Five people were arrested, and Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said the crowd nearly got out of control. Lott said he would like the state to prevent identified hate groups from holding rallies on the Capitol grounds. Allowing KKK and Black Panther Party demonstrations on opposite sides of the State House on the same day was “asking for trouble,” he told the paper.
Courson said he wants to protect free speech rights, but also wants to know why safety isn’t a concern when issuing permits to protest.