Not all Spring Valley students were happy to see Ben Fields, the white police officer caught on video flipping a black female student out of her desk and then throwing her across the room, lose his job.
Around 10 o'clock on Friday morning, a group of students, both black and white, walked out their of classes Spring Valley High School of Columbia, S.C., wearing handwritten T-shirts reading "Free Fields" or "#BringBackFields,” posting images of their protest to social media.
These 100 or so students, out of 2,059 in total, left their respective classes to meet in the school’s atrium. Some told WLTX-TV that they had originally intended to exit the building.
“We just want to show that we’re still supporting him and everything and that he’s still a good guy, and everything and we don’t want his reputation to be ruined because of something that happened on Monday,” one of the demonstrators told WTLX.
According to student recordings of the event, they were eventually addressed by principal Jeff Temoney. He said no one will be suspended for participating in the walkout and dismissed them back to class.
"We've heard your voices, okay," Mr. Temoney said. "We appreciate you taking time to do this, but again, as you know, we always focus on teaching and learning, so let's head on back to class."
In a letter sent home to parents, he reiterated that the school understands the students’ desire to express their beliefs. District officials told Live-5 News that the demonstration was “small” and “orderly.”
Deputy Ben Fields had been a school resource officer assigned to Spring Valley for seven years. He also served as an assistant football coach.
He was fired Wednesday from the Richland County Sheriff's Department for excessive use of force. The student, who was allegedly disturbing class, was asked to leave by a teacher and then by a school administrator, before they called Fields to the scene, say reports. When the girl refused to leave the room once again, Fields can be seen in multiple cell phone videos wrapping his arms around her neck and flipping her backwards before tossing her across the floor.
The Justice Department’s office of civil rights, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Columbia, S.C. are all investigating the case.
“He was wrong in his actions and it was not what I expect of my deputies,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said. “Deputy Fields did not follow proper training or procedures when he threw the student across the room. It continues to upset me that he picked the student up and threw her.”
Senior John Cassibry, who participated in Friday’s protest and posted a video of Principal Temoney’s address on Twitter, said that though he thought Fields’s conduct was inappropriate, he should not have been fired.
"I believe it is important as a student to voice my opinion," he told the Huffington Post. "My belief on Deputy Fields is just that – I do believe he was too aggressive, but I do not believe it was any circumstance to lose his job, nor do I believe it was race-driven."
He said the majority of the demonstrators Friday were black.