A Hernando County father has several questions for South Carolina law enforcement after his son was beaten, then arrested at a Confederate flag protest even though he never threw a punch.
South Carolina Department of Public Safety arrested Nicholas Thompson, 25, charging him with disorderly conduct.
Thompson was part of a convoy of pro-Confederate flag demonstrators that drove by an anti-Confederate flag rally Monday night at the State House in Columbia.
As police officers directed traffic to keep moving, Thompson got out of an SUV to retrieve a Confederate flag that was stolen from a car in front of him, he said.
"I was wrong for getting out in the middle of the road. I understand that," Thompson said. "I got out, and all I did was point and say to the officer, 'can I please get my flag back that he stole'. Before 'stole' got out of my mouth, I got punched in the mouth by the guy right next to the cop."
Video posted to YouTube shows Thompson get socked in the face right before a group of people pounced on him.
Another man helped Thompson off the ground
"I got beat up by about nine people, and the cop broke it up and put me in handcuffs and charged me," Thompson said.
During a news conference Tuesday, law enforcement acknowledged Thompson didn't throw a punch but stood by the initial charge and said Thompson was the "aggressor."
His father, Mike, doesn't understand how his son can be the aggressor when he didn't instigate violence.
"I don't condone why he was there. But really, at this point, it's irrelevant," Mike said. "I mean, he didn't break any laws. He had every right to be there. I wouldn't have been there doing what he was doing, but it doesn't give other people the right to steal his property and assault him."
Mike's son called him Monday night after the arrest.
"What did you do was my first thought," Mike Thompson said.
And as his son explained what happened, Mike's concern turned to frustration since, he said, he didn't do anything wrong.
"At first I thought they were arresting him for his own protection, to put him in protective custody. But no. They charged him with disorderly conduct," he said.
Mike said both sides of this Confederate flag discourse have every right to rally and protest where they see fit, but regardless of where people stand on this issue, it should never resort to violence.
"I totally understand their position and sympathize with it. And may even agree with them, but it doesn't give them the right to start stealing stuff and beating people up. That's not how you go about resolving these things," He said.
The Thompson's hope the charges are dropped.