GEORGETOWN COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Several activist groups took to the streets in Georgetown to protest the decision by Georgetown County administrators to simply suspend a Parks and Recreations Department employee who hung a noose from his city vehicle.
“That’s a vehicle that we all payed for with our tax dollars,” De’Ontay Winchester said. “An individual who would display a noose in front of a historically black community and a historically black school says he or she wishes to go back to a time when black people were lynched.”
Winchester is part of S.C. Solid and the Georgetown Youth Council, both are active civil rights groups in the area. In partnership with the local NAACP, they put on the march and rally to decry the noose as a symbol of hate. They want to the county government to take stronger action.
“The employee was suspended for about two weeks without pay. That’s a good start but why is the individual still employed by the Georgetown County government,” Winchester said. “They have to go. We cannot tolerate hate. The only proper action is termination.”
In a statement, county spokesperson Jackie Broach said the county acted as quickly as possible to address the issue when they got the report:
An employee of the Parks and Recreation Department was suspended without pay from July 16-29 and placed on probation for 6 months for “violation of Georgetown County’s anti-harassment policies regarding acts of misconduct including threats and lack of good judgment. He is also required to attend diversity/sensitivity training. This action is following an investigation that started July 14 after the county was alerted that a noose was hanging from the employee’s assigned work vehicle. The county was made aware of the issue late in the evening on July 14 via a call from a member of the public. An investigation began that night. The employee was suspended the following day while further investigation took place, and placed on leave without pay beginning July 16.
Kristina Davis is the vice president of S.C. Solid and says the suspension does not go far enough and it reflects poorly on county leaders. At the march, people could obtain information on registering to vote.
“At this point, we need to look into placing new individuals in positions leading our community,” Davis said. “We can’t stand for it and if we let this go by it’s only a matter of time before something more drastic that will take place.”
Georgetown NAACP President Marvin Neal says he confirmed the noose had been riding in the vehicle for at least three weeks but suggested it could have been a lot longer. He says he wants to know more about the investigation and why justice committee county council members – two of whom are black – were not part of it.
“They were never given the opportunity to address the situation,” Neal said.
He is not suggesting race played a role in the decision making, however, acknowledging that several county leaders, including the county administrator, are black.
Neal also announced he has requested an investigation by the FBI and the national NAACP. He has not yet heard back from the FBI.
Broach declined to provide answers to questions about who made the disciplinary decision and the rationale that went into it.
“Georgetown County does not comment on internal personnel discussions. Outside of providing the dates we were notified of the offense, the date the investigation started and the final outcome, we have no further comment,” Broach said.