Following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, racial tension in America skyrocketed, sparking a wave of protests nationwide. In the aftermath, Black Lives Matter SC (BLMSC) and other organizations in Columbia came together to voice outrage about police brutality. Here is a timeline of protests over the past year.
The I Can't Breathe - South Carolina March began at 11 a.m. at the Columbia City Hall. Lawrence Dishawn Nathaniel, the founder of National Organization for Change, organized the protest.
Thinking back on the protest, second-year broadcast journalism student Mikenzie Turner said there was a powerful atmosphere at the rally.
"It was definitely a bunch of people who were tired and upset of seeing Black people treated poorly," Turner said. "It was a lot of people who just wanted to fight for what's right."
The protest initially started peacefully, but things escalated just after 2 p.m., as the crowd threw water bottles and rocks at police dressed in riot gear.
Some Columbia Police Department cars were set on fire, and officers used pepper spray and rubber bullets to control the crowd.
Protesters held a "Die-In" at the Statehouse, where they laid on the ground for nine minutes and chanted "I can't breathe," which were the last words Floyd spoke.
Despite snipers on the Statehouse roof and a helicopter overhead, USC student Marnija Lewis told The Daily Gamecock the protest was calmer than the previous two.
"I'm so tired of seeing us in the media, dying, our bodies slain," Lewis said. "Today is much more peaceful for what it seems, and I'm glad about that."
Nathaniel, who also organized this protest, and other leaders passed out a list of demands, which included a "District Base Community Police Oversight committee."
Protesters stated their demands outside the South Carolina governor's mansion before leading a march to the Statehouse, where a rally was held.
The list of eight demands was read in front of the Statehouse and included provisions such as requiring body and dash cams for all officers, with public footage stored for a minimum of two years.
The crowd then moved to stand along Gervais Street, as it had at the previous two protests, facing the officers across them and chanting, "Black lives matter."
A demonstrator from Indiana named Jim Giles protested against Black Lives Matter on Greene Street, holding up signs that read "BLM are racist thugs" and "BLM: rent a riot."
Giles was surrounded by a group of students most of the afternoon chanting "Black Lives Matter" and "No justice, no peace" in a counterprotest.
Trey Hogan, a first-year bass trombone player, and a couple of other students brought their instruments and played loudly as Giles spoke.
"I came out here before, and then I just thought, 'I'm going to go get my trombone just to mess with him,'" Hogan told The Daily Gamecock.
A group of protesters from the Republican National Convention arrived on campus holding signs with anti-Black Lives Matter, anti-LGBTQIA+ and religiously intolerant ideologies.
Again, students gathered and engaged in counterprotest. The group of protesters were separated from students by metal fences and did not cross them.
Former Student Body President Issy Rushton said it was a difficult day.
"That was one of the hardest days of my entire presidency, but I definitely was proud to see the student body protesting out there and having their voice heard, and standing up for what they believed in," Rushton said.
BLMSC led a series of marches following Jacob Blake's shooting.
The rally around 9:30 a.m. with a march on Senator Lindsey Graham's Columbia offices to pressure Graham to support both the George Floyd Police Accountability Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act in Senate.
Things remained peaceful and the march featured a series of speakers, including Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, spoke on various topics.
"I say to students ... [the late Rep.] John Lewis would say it all the time: If you see something, say something," Clyburn said. "My dad used to tell me all the time, 'Silence gives consent.' So we saw wrong and we did something about it."
BLMSC hosted a rally outside the Statehouse to express its disapproval of the Breonna Taylor case's verdict and launched a call to protect Black women.
Executive director of BLMSC Kayin Jones told The Daily Gamecock that none of the officers being charged directly with Taylor's death was a point of pain for him.
"If you're willing to tell us that the officer was to be charged for missing Breonna Taylor's body and shooting into somebody's else's apartment, that says that her life doesn't matter, simply stated," Jones said.