Jonathan Boncek file
Mother Emanuel AME Church
Politicians, musicians, and supporters will gather at Marion Square for a rally against gun violence on June 23 — days after the third anniversary of the 2015 racially-motivated shooting of nine parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston.
From 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., thousands are expected to gather a block away from the church to call for an end to the gun violence epidemic plaguing the country.
This year alone has seen 112 mass shootings
, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, which tracks statistics from across the country. There has also been an average of one school shooting per week in 2018, according to CNN
. That includes the February 14 murder of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The shooting sparked the National School Walkout on March 14, the March for Our Lives 10 days later, and a national reckoning with the state of gun laws.
In 2016, South Carolina had the 10th highest number of gun deaths per capita in the country, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
. South Carolina was also responsible for supplying the sixth highest number of crime guns to other states per capita in 2016.
The Center also notes how relatively easy it is to buy a gun in South Carolina, which does not impose a waiting period before the purchase of a firearm and does not limit the amount of ammunition that can be purchased at once. The so-called "Charleston loophole" — when guns are automatically sold to people after the FBI, in cooperation with local authorities, fails to complete a background check within three days — is the reason why Mother Emanuel shooter and avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof was able to buy the weapon he used to kill nine people during a Wednesday night bible study.
"Rallying for Unity serves as a universal symbol of love to embrace diversity, inspire dialogue, and change behaviors that will result in racial reconciliation and 'common sense' gun laws," reads the Facebook page
for the event. "The divisive state of affairs globally requires a Call to Action, reminding us all that 'Love is Our Mission'"
Speakers will include Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, state Sen. Marlon Kimpson of Charleston, activist Bree Newsome (known for scaling the flagpole outside of the Statehouse in Columbia
and taking down the Confederate battle flag), and Rev. Dr. Jamal H. Bryant of Empowerment Temple AME Church in Baltimore.
Charleston native and renowned violinist Daniel D., Charleston emcee Benny Starr, and folk singer and 1960s counterculture icon Joan Baez will provide entertainment. Baez is currently on the European leg of her "Fare The Well" tour
. She will perform in France on June 17 before landing in Charleston for the event.