The crowd of locals on the corner was composed, much in the same way North Charleston has remained in the wake of the public release of the footage earlier this week.
“I really believe the peaceful temperament of our community right now, the reason we have it, is because of that transparency that was forced in North Charleston,” said community organizer Pastor Thomas Dixon as he waited for the press conference to begin.
That forced transparency has pushed the cities of Charleston and North Charleston onto a national stage, and in doing so, has highlighted a complicated and long-suffering relationship between the black community and law enforcement.
“The lingering question in this case is what would have happened if there was no video,” said Dot Scott, president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP, not long after she took the podium. In the back of the crowd, Jenkins pushed his sign skywards over the heads of reporters, as high as his arms would reach.
Scrawled in block letters on the cardboard was his own explanation of what is going on: “Blacks [feel] betrayed.”
“There’s a big, wide gap when it comes to how we as black people are being treated here in Charleston,” Jenkins said. Black businesses in Charleston are gone, he said, and black families have been pushed out of the city by rising rents, leading to considerable tension.
Nearly three out of every four residents of Charleston is white, while almost half of the residents of North Charleston are black.
“There’s a juggernaut going on that you cannot stop once it starts rolling,” Jenkins said. “We know that we are eliminated out of [Charleston]. Only a certain percentage of us might be here, like domestic workers, maybe some who have technical training. But the majority of black folks down here only get laborer jobs, yet they can’t pay for housing with that minimum amount of money.”
Minorities have not only been pushed out by economic factors, he added, but they are also being pushed around by law enforcement. “They’re always being profiled,” Jenkins said.