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Columbia mayor apologizes to artist for ‘harrowing’ experience with city police

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin issued an apology to an artist who city police officers detained and investigated as a attainable intruder in the art center apartment where by he was living.

“I would like to apologize to you for your harrowing expertise with Columbia Police Office officers,” Benjamin wrote in a letter to artist John Sims. “We expect that when friends are traveling to our town, they are designed welcome, their safety and wellbeing are ensured, and all features of their pay a visit to make them would like to return.”

Sims, who is Black, is a Florida-primarily based artist who is the artist in residence at 701 Center for Up to date Artwork on Whaley Street. He lives in an apartment in the higher story of the art heart.

In the early morning of May well 17, Columbia police officers entered the artwork centre, stating they observed a door open and ended up seeking for a probable intruder. When they found Sims in his upstairs apartment, the officers pointed their guns at him and handcuffed him for about eight minutes whilst they ran his identify as a result of a legal database.

Main Skip Holbrook defended his officers right after the incident, declaring they acted adequately and in protocol and only erred when they didn’t let Sims to acquire images.

The art center’s director issued a statement, expressing that Sims’ race was the principal rationale he was detained.

Sims reported he believed white supremacists ended up immediately after him when he listened to persons seeking the art centre. He truly named law enforcement to report that folks were in the artwork centre just before he realized they have been officers.

Sims’ artwork scorns Accomplice symbols like the Accomplice flag. In a person piece, he spots Confederate flags in a noose. The intent is to get, confront and confiscate symbols and symptoms of white supremacy and the Confederacy, Sims claimed at a June 17 rally at the Point out House.

At the rally, artists and activists memorialized the 9 folks killed by a white supremacist at Mom Emanuel Church in Charleston in 2015 and spoke out from community Accomplice symbols, which they stated build a lifestyle that allowed the killings. Sims’ “AfroConfederate Battle Flag” adorned the State House’s stairs during the rally.

Benjamin toured Sims’ show at the 701 artwork heart with the artist.

In his letter, Benjamin thanked Sims for the tour.

“Now extra than ever, the do the job you are undertaking is needed and significant,” Benjamin wrote. “A strong and frank dialogue about the record of race, racism and oppression is a lot more vital now than ever. The determination and enthusiasm that you exhibit, irrespective of all of the obstacles you have confronted, is inspiring.”

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