Members of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department are meeting tonight "to determine actions to be taken in the future after what was organized as a peaceful protest turned unruly Thursday afternoon," a department spokesperson says.
Organizers had agreed to abide by laws and ordinances in absence of a permit, police say, "but a number of protesters quickly violated that agreement and laid down in the street."
The protest started on the Savannah State University campus, moved north on Skidaway Road to Victory Drive, west to Bee Road and back to the campus.
Organizers of the march met with SSU and Metro Police before the 4 p.m. protest and agreed to remain on sidewalks and avoid interfering with traffic.
"But the numbers swelled quickly to around 70 and filled both lanes of Skidaway to Victory Drive where some members blocked traffic by laying down on the highway," police say.
Metro Police "opted to avoid arrests in favor of quickly dissipating the traffic disturbances," the spokesman says, "but Police Chief Joseph H. Lumpkin Sr. said future disruptions may be handled differently.
“We cannot allow citizens to violate the law and disrupt traffic and endanger themselves as well as the motoring public,” said Lumpkin. “We clearly support the public’s right to assemble and voice their opinions, but this must be done peacefully and in an organized manner. We all are disappointed that was not done today.”
State laws forbid purposely and/or recklessly obstructing a highway, street, sidewalk, or other public passage, rendering it impassable or failing or refusing to remove the obstruction after receiving a reasonable official request or the order of a peace officer. Violators can be charged under state law.