South Carolina: Protests Sparked by Violent Arrest of Two Black Men during Traffic Stop

Photo: Protesters in Rock Hill following the violent arrest of the Ricky and Travis Price (Source: Tribune SC)

By Sarah Ahmed

On June 23, two Black men, brothers Ricky and Travis Price, were beaten and arrested by police after a traffic stop in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Protests erupted for three consecutive nights after a video of the arrest, taken by a bystander, went viral on social media.

A screenshot from bystander video shows police tackling Ricky Price

Ricky Price was driving in Rock Hill when police pulled him over for allegedly making an illegal turn. Ricky pulled in to a gas station to comply with the stop. At the time he was pulled over, Price was on the phone with his brother, Travis Price, who arrived at the gas station while police were searching Ricky’s car.

In the video of the arrest recorded by a bystander, Ricky tells the woman filming that police had no probable cause to search his vehicle. The video soon shows an officer shoving Travis against a large tank and choking him and then struggling with him on the ground.

As the video continues, two different police officers can be seen punching Ricky, with one of the officers tasing him at least twice. One officer uses a police dog to intimidate Price while three officers, some in plainclothes, assault him, tackling him to the ground. As officers pin Price down to handcuff him, his face is bleeding heavily, leaving a puddle of blood on the pavement.

Ricky Price arrived to his bond hearing on Thursday morning in a wheelchair, with a broken nose. The police, who have sought to paint Price as a criminal, have pursued charges for drug possession, illegally carrying a firearm, and resisting arrest. His bond was denied. Travis is facing charges of hindering police, and his bond was granted. Two police officers involved in the incident with Rock Hill Police Department (RHPD) have been placed on administrative leave.

Hundreds of protesters gathered at the Rock Hill Police Department Headquarters the evening after the Price brothers’ arrest, demanding that the body-cam footage of the Price brothers’ arrest be released, and calling for the police responsible for the assault to be fired.

A Facebook livestream shows protesters blocking an intersection and a tree outside of the police department being set on fire. The following night, protesters gathered again at the police department and marched through downtown Rock Hill. Protesters faced off with police several times throughout the night.

An activist preparing for the protest on Thursday afternoon told Tribune she believed that armed self-defense was the only way people could protect themselves from police violence, saying, “Turning the other cheek only applies to your own community. It doesn’t apply to the police.”

Heavily armed Rock Hill Police attempt to restrict the protest.

During the protest on Thursday, police armed with assault rifles stopped marchers from taking the street. Later that night, police in riot gear blocked protesters from the entrance to the police department, as one protester threw a firecracker behind the line of riot police. Police made 11 arrests during the Thursday night protest.

On Monday, lawyers for the Price brothers held a press conference after reviewing surveillance footage from the gas station where the brothers were arrested, disputing the police report. The lawyers said that the surveillance video shows how a police officer was handing Travis some of Ricky’s belongings, at Ricky’s request. After one officer handed Travis one of the items, they say, another officer grabbed Travis and began choking him. The lawyers are demanding that all charges for Travis Price be dropped.

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