It was almost 40 years ago when Michael Sullivan’s youngest brother, 20 years old at the time, was killed by a man with a gun.
Saturday, Sullivan marched with about 100 others through downtown Columbia, chanting and pleading for “gun sense” and peace in the community and the nation. Along with other members of Columbia’s Unitarian Universalist congregation, Sullivan carried a banner proclaiming they were “standing on the side of love.”
“This just totally shattered my whole family,” Sullivan said of his brother’s death. “I want to see some sanity happen in the world and in the United States so that we don’t have such a devastating amount of gun violence.”
The Peace Walk, sponsored by Columbia’s Faith Coalition on Gun Violence, brought together members of the interfaith community as well as law enforcement and civil rights activists as they walked from Zion Baptist Church to the State House steps.
“It’s unacceptable, and, to be honest, I’ve been surprised” by the amount of gunfire in the community, said Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook, who joined the crowd in singing the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” before walking to the State House. “I think any time we can bring attention to such a critical issue nationally, and we certainly feel the impact here locally, is important.
“We have many challenges ahead of us, and this is how you overcome that.”
Among the marchers were Christopher Cason and pastor Thomas Dixon of the Charleston coalition People United to Take Back Our Community.
Their group travels to communities around the region to support movements against gun violence because, Dixon said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
They advocate for enforcing tougher penalties against illegal weapon holders, reaching out to and understanding troubled youth, and strengthening unity within communities to promote peace.
“We’re tired of the status quo. We’re tired of burying our children. And we’re tired of the failure to implement laws that will slow these things down,” Dixon said. “It has to change. If it doesn’t change now, God forbid what it’s going to be like in 40 years.”