The protest originated around a bowling alley, one of the few remaining places in town to remain segregated. On the first night, the students showed up for a sit in, the owners wife told them to leave, and threw away anything that they touched. The second night, the police showed up and there was a confrontation. Several of the students had to go for medical attention, while others threw rocks and bricks. The situation further escalated on the third night, when the police arrived at a bonfire the students had lit. The students started heading back to campus at South Carolina State University, and the police started firing. There are more than one story on what set this off, but the end result was 3 dead and 27 wounded.
After the shooting, the governor tried to cover up what had happened by saying it had been a battle and the police were acting in self defense. They went so far as to arrest a young man named Cleveland Sellers, charging him with rioting. This was the official story for years, and Sellers served 7 months in prison. As years went by, the real story started to come out, and finally 1993, Sellers conviction was pardoned.