by Paul Bowers
Four p.m. came and went, and protesters did not shut down traffic on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.
The City Paper received a blind-copied email press release at 12:55 p.m. with the subject line "BREAKING//FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: LOCAL ORGANIZERS SHUTDOWN 4 LANES ON COOPER RIVER BRIDGE IN RESPONSE TO MURDER OF WALTER SCOTT." The City Paper called one of the contacts listed in the email, who identified herself as Savannah Brennan and said that four cars would stop in traffic on the bridge at 4 p.m. and protesters would get out of the vehicles and stage a protest until police arrived.
Shortly after the City Paper published a story about the threatened bridge shutdown, at 1:43 p.m., another person who claimed to be involved with the protest called and said angrily that the contents of the press release were not meant to be published, despite the words "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE" that were included in the subject line. Then, at 1:58 p.m., the email contact identified as Brennan sent a reply to the original press release stating "THIS INFORMATION IS NO LONGER RELEVANT. THERE HAS BEEN A LEAK. PLEASE DISREGARD AND DO NOT PUBLISH THIS INFORMATION." The City Paper attempted to reach both of the listed press contacts, but neither one would confirm whether the protest would still be taking place.
Around 3:30 p.m., law enforcement officials began gathering at the East Bay Street on-ramp to the Ravenel Bridge. Charleston Police Department spokesman Charles Francis sent the following statement via email:
Law enforcement, which includes Charleston Police, Charleston County Sheriff's Office, Mt. Pleasant Police, and SLED, are aware of the mentioned [sic] of a potential protest involving protesters interfering with traffic on the Ravenel Bridge this afternoon. We are actively monitoring the situation. Presently there aren't any protesters on the bridge and traffic is flowing normally.
As a precautionary measure we have closed the pedestrian lane on the bridge and we will advise you when it reopens.
Near the East Bay Street onramp, some pedestrians and bicyclists waited while the bike and pedestrian lanes were closed off. Automobile traffic on the onramp slowed down around 4 p.m. At 4:20 p.m., more than 10 police vehicles pulled up to a nearby parking lot, and officers got out of the vehicles and crossed the median on East Bay Street before abruptly turning back around and reconvening in the parking lot. By about 4:30 p.m., vehicle traffic on the bridge had returned to a faster pace.
Three organizers of Black Lives Matter - Charleston, the activist group behind some recent demonstrations in North Charleston, have said that their group was not affiliated with the threatened bridge shutdown. Black Lives Matter - Charleston has planned a protest event in front of North Charleston City Hall tonight at 7 p.m. calling for City Council to hold a special called meeting about creating a Citizen Review Board that would review police department policies and oversee the handling of citizen complaints against officers.