NAN calls for amended permit program after teen arrested


The National Action Network and Elder James Johnson are calling for an amended permit program following the arrest of a teenager for selling roses in the downtown Charleston city market on Monday.

During a press conference in front of Charleston City Hall Thursday afternoon, Johnson called for an hour-long class run by city officials to explain the ordinance to children who want to sell the roses and their parents before obtaining a permit. He added that the permit would be taken away if the child received three warnings from police for selling outside designated areas. 

The class would replace a business camp which rose-sellers are required to attend before obtaining a free permit. 

"We can't allow one or two or three kids to mess it up for kids who are abiding by the law," Johnson said. "Is this a fix-all? No... but we're starting somewhere."

"Palmetto roses" are woven from fronds of the Palmetto tree. Under the current statute, it is illegal for youth to sell the roses unless they are participating in the city's Palmetto Artisan Program, an educational initiative designed to teach young people between the ages of nine and 16 business and entrepreneurial skills. The program puts the children in designated areas where they're allowed to sell legally. 

The current designated areas include the Aquarium Wharf, Market Street, The Customs House, and Waterfront Park. Participants must attend the camp set up by the Recreation Department and have parental permission. 

During the school year, the permitted kids are allowed to sell on Fridays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. During the summer, those hours are extended to every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the designated areas. 

The City of Charleston is forming a task force to see if any changes need to be made in the Palmetto Rose program. 

"We're not going to wait until something like this happens again where an officer might pull his gun and shoot somebody," Johnson said. "The same thing happened to Walter Scott, we worked to change that situation and we don't want something like that to happen again"

The officer had no intention of arresting the teen before the fight happened, according to Charleston police spokesman Charles Francis. Instead, the officer planned to take the teen home, release him to the custody of his parent or guardian with a court date for Family Court

At 1:15 p.m. Monday, the officer approached one of the teens, who then attempted to run away, Charleston police spokesman Charles Francis said. The officer then tried to detain the teen and the teen fought with the officer, ignoring "clear and loud demands for him to stop resisting," Francis said.

The two fell to the ground and the officer's department-issued body camera was knocked off his uniform and onto the ground. Police say the teen continued resisting and ended up on top of the officer until several witnesses pulled the teen off of the officer

The teen was handcuffed and placed in the back of the officer's cruiser, Francis said. EMS responded to the scene to treat both for small abrasions they received during the struggle.

"This isn't the outcome that we want, but from what I have learned thus far, I think the officer handled the situation appropriately considering the difficult circumstances," Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds said. "He didn't chase these kids nor did he use excessive force in making the arrest.".

"The young man made the unfortunate decision to resist the officer and this entire situation could have been completely avoided had he cooperated with the officer," Reynolds said.

Back in January, the city placed signs in the area warning tourists that the sale of the roses by "roaming peddlers" was considered illegal. 

The department previously received numerous complaints from the business and tourism community about vandalism, assaults and disorderly behavior by kids illegally selling the roses, Reynolds said.

Participants in palmetto roses program speak out

D’Andre Hicks has been participating in Charleston’s Palmetto Artisan Program for eight years, making and selling palmetto roses.

He had to take a class to get a permit to sell the roses, and for him it has been a life changer. 

“I’ve learned a lot about how to become a business leader and an entrepreneur and a lot of social skills," D'Andre said. 

Elder James Johnson says parents should be required to take a class with their kids before the permit is issued.

“When the parents and the child leave that one hour class the parents would know what that child can and cannot do,” Johnson said. 

City officials said parents are required to sign up their kids for the program.

That holds true for pastor Trudy Hicks who teaches some of the kids to make the roses.

“I think parents should be involved in everything their children do, even the palmetto roses, everything," Hicks said. 

D’Andre and the pastor said they were disheartened to hear about Monday’s incident.

“I still think it was wrong for him to be selling not in the proper way,” D'Andre said. 

“It really has upset me because I don’t want this program to die,” Hicks said.

Johnson says he doesn’t want the program put on the shelf.

He just wants to avoid another confrontation between a cop and a kid.

Both Hicks and D’Andre say there’s no need for changes in the palmetto rose program, both hope to see more success stories. 

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