Lining the sidewalk along Gervais Street and standing bunched at the foot of the S.C. State House steps, a couple hundred people gathered peacefully in the spirit of Black Lives Matter on Saturday night.
“Stop police brutality;” “Silence is violence;” “We will not be silent,” their myriad signs read.
The peaceful protest was organized in honor of African-Americans nationally killed by police. Many of their names were read aloud – Jamie Joseph Lewis, Anthony Ray Ballard, Leland White, Keith Lamont Scott – amid sounds of honking cars and cheers of “Black Lives Matter.”
While in the spirit of the widely publicized social justice movement, the rally and its organizers were not affiliated with the official Black Lives Matter organization.
“With all the violence and unnecessary injustice going on, it seems as though black lives don’t matter enough. White lives matter more,” said BriAna Johnson, a 21-year-old Columbia College student who is black. Standing beside her white basketball teammate Emiley Masloski, Johnson asked, “So is my life of less value than hers?”
Speakers emphasized themes of justice and equality, calling on African-Americans to make their ancestors and their children proud and calling on white allies of the social justice movement to be bold and reject neutrality.
“This is not just a black mission,” said Tianna Mills, one of the event’s organizers and speakers. “This is everybody’s mission.”
The rally had been scheduled for last Saturday. But angry, daily protests still were roiling Charlotte after the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, and many interested in attending the Columbia rally also wanted to go to Charlotte in support.