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Protesters Banned From MUSC Board Meetings
10/15/2014 4:44:05 PM

Carolina Alliance for Fair Employment (CAFE) Co-chairman Leonard Riley (standing center) with protesters at MUSC Board Meeting August 8.
By Barney Blakeney

Employees and their supporters who have been attending Medical University of South Carolina Board of Trustees meetings conducting silent protests last week were banned from the meeting.

Carolina Alliance for Fair Employment (CAFE) Co-chairman Leonard Riley said ever since the Charleston Hospital Strike of 1969 which sought to address discrimination against Blacks and inequities in employment, there still remains unfair policies that don’t serve in the best interests of lower echelon employees. The protests have been conducted for several months in an effort to take those concerns to the boardroom.

CAFE, their supporters, and others including state legislators hoping to mediate between the institution and employees have been meeting for several years to discuss concerns. Riley said those meetings only have yielded promises for greater diversity and equity in the future.

“We believe the administration wants to address those issues going forward, but they also must address the inequities that exist now. Theoretical and futuristic plans don’t address those immediate pervasive needs,” he said.

Some two months ago CAFE and its supporters began attending MUSC Board of Trustees meetings carrying signs that outlined their concerns and they have asked to be placed on the board’s business agenda to voice those concerns.

The protesters with their signs, have silently stood along the walls at the meetings. The officials said the protesters were disruptive to their meeting. On Friday the entire group of about 20 protesters were prevented from entering the meeting. MUSC officials said only five protesters without signs would be allowed in the meeting. In a prepared statement Riley Monday rebutted those assertions.

“This is nonsense as the protesters have been silent and film footage reveals they have been careful not to obstruct anyone’s view of the screens or proceedings. Being in the presence of so many Black people may have caused discomfort for some members of the board of trustees, but at no time were any of us disruptive. The board may also feel uncomfortable being reminded of their responsibilities to their employees, patients and taxpayers.” Riley said.

South Carolina ACLU President Victoria Middleton said Monday protesters who are not disruptive have a right to be at any public meeting. And if the protesters were not disruptive, it’s unfortunate MUSC officials could not find a way to accommodate them.

Neither Riley or Middleton would comment about if or when any legal counteraction might take place.

Riley added, “If this is the way they treat us, how do they treat the employees?”

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