by Paul Bowers
Protesters are planning to march through downtown Charleston Saturday afternoon in a nonviolent protest against institutional racism, racial profiling, and excessive use of force by police. The march will begin at 2 p.m., but protesters have been asked to meet at 1:15 p.m. at Hampstead Square, a public square in Mall Park at the corner of America and Columbus streets.
The protest action is being coordinated by Black Lives Matter Charleston, a new protest group that formed Wednesday night in a meeting at the International Longshoremen's Association Hall. The group takes its name from a slogan that has been used around the world in the wake of controversial decisions in the police-involved deaths of unarmed black men Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y.
Melissa Charles, a group spokesperson, says Black Lives Matter Charleston intends to continue after Saturday's action.
"Leaving the meeting, I think one of the biggest things we established was that this march that we're planning for Saturday is in solidarity with what's going on with the rest of the nation, but we don't want the march to be the be-all end-all," Charles says. "We want to really build off of the momentum that has been building across the nation and see how some of those things might apply here in Charleston."
A Facebook event page has been set up for the march, and organizers are asking protesters not to attach handles or sticks to any signs they bring. "We would like to march from Hampstead Park into the city, bring awareness, and then bring everyone back safely and peacefully," Charles says.
"A lot of time the automatic reaction to Black Lives Matter becomes, 'Well, all lives matter,'" Charles says. "There are very few people in the world who would disagree, I think, with the statement that all lives do matter, but unfortunately what's been happening is that the narrative being painted is that certain lives are worth more than other lives, certain lives are more deserving of freedom, certain lives are more deserving of privilege, certain lives are more deserving of not being brutalized, not being profiled."
Click here to RSVP to the march. So far more than 270 people have indicated that they will participate.