Last Tuesday night following the Special Called meeting of Greenville County Council, a confrontation flared between factions of the audience that could have become very serious except for quick professional action by three employees of the Sheriff’s Office. The Chairman of County Council called the meeting to approve a resolution calling for the resignation of the sheriff. The confrontation had nothing to do with that subject, although tensions may have been intensified by it.
I arrived at the meeting early and picked a seat on the front row directly behind the speaker’s podium. A woman I knew as a Black Activist was seated behind me. A man who brings his Bible to council meetings and quotes scripture to council members and others took the seat next to me.
Comments had been going back and forth between the man and the woman during the meeting and the Executive Session break, but I had not paid attention. With the meeting adjourned and television crews interviewing Council members, a few feet from our seats, voices became loud.
A young woman who may have been a reporter joined the two-way debate between the man and woman. The man alleged loudly that “Barack Obama is going to bust Hell wide open.” The woman started chanting over and over that “Jesus was a Socialist.” Suddenly a group of women moved up from the back of the room and began yelling at the man and accusing him of calling the young woman by an uncomplimentary term. The man tried to justify the alleged remark by saying he was speaking in spiritual terms.
The confrontation became louder and louder. Two Deputy Sheriffs were standing near me observing. With the assistance of a third armed man in civilian clothing, they quietly moved in and escorted the angry women to the rear of the conference room.
One of the deputies returned and informed the man that it was time to clear the room and he must leave. He protested, saying he was afraid the women would attack him when he got outside. The deputy offered to escort him to his car for his protection and they departed the conference room.
I was very positively impressed by the cool professionalism displayed by the deputies in this explosive situation. Without their quick action, violence could have easily sparked. I don’t know how many people observed this incident from beginning to end, but regardless, these Law Enforcement officers should be commended for inserting themselves into a hostile situation and without threatening in any way, they demonstrated that they were in control of the situation and ended it peacefully.