March Against Violence: A call to action | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | June 30, 2016 5:00 am
Last Updated: June 29, 2016 at 11:00 am
By GEORGE SALSBERRY
As the thermometer flirted with 90 degrees in the late morning sun on June 25, the participants in the Stop The Violence March gathered under the sheltering shade of a Live Oak tree in a corner of Pinckney Park.
The shade offered a respite after the nearly one-mile trek down Hampton Street from the Colleton County Courthouse that started the Community Action Line Against Violence-sponsored event.
Juanita Harvey, secretary of the organization, welcomed those attending their fourth march, explaining that the march was dedicated to the memory of Rev. Clementa Pinckney and asked for a moment of silence for Pinckney and the other members of the Emanuel Nine.
Harvey told the audience that Community Action Line’s founder and president Horace Simmons was ailing and would be absent.
The group also learned that the scheduled guest speaker, S.C. Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, was also unable to attend.
The Rev. Leon Maxwell, pastor of St. Peter’s AME Church, was called upon to introduce Gilliard’s replacement, Pastor Thomas Dixon of North Charleston, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Tim Scott.
Dixon asked if anyone in the audience who knew someone who had been the victim of gun violence — every hand went in the air.
“It is a darn shame that we would all raise our hands,” Dixon said. “Why hasn’t it stopped? Why is it happening over and over and over again?
“Today is Saturday June 25. Someone isn’t going to make it through the day because of gun violence,” Dixon said. “Every day, 92 people lose their lives to gun violence and there are people who won’t declare this an epidemic.”
“For some reason even I, an ex-felon, can go get a gun whenever I want to,” he told the audience. Dixon served time for a drug offense, explaining that he is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. “I’ve been up that road.”
Guns are easily attainable, he said, “because some people are blocking common sense legislation.” The opponents complain that gun legislation would take their rights away, Dixon said, but “What about the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
“In our community there is something to be done,” Dixon said. The first thing is, he said, “the legislators who support that need to be fired.”
But the ballot box does not end there, he said. “We have to take ownership of the problem — we can’t turning our heads to what is going on our communities. We can’t sit back and say that because my children have been raised good, all is well.”
That mindset, he explained, does not mean that other children without that parental guidance, “are not going to shoot our kids. We have to reach out them.
“We can no longer hide killers in our community,” Dixon told the audience. “You know what I am talking about — I am talking about this ‘no snitch’ code.”
Years ago, snitching was a code in which the people involved in a criminal act would not tell of others’ involvement in the crime.
“The criminals redefined snitching to make it mean any kind of telling,” Dixon said. “Sharing information with law enforcement is not snitching,” he said. “It is reporting because I want to make my community safe.
“It is now time to take back our communities. We cannot allow random violence. We cannot allow gun violence. We cannot allow domestic violence,” Dixon said.
“We need to change our mindset. Stop and think. My first alternative is never a gun; my first alternative is to walk away.
“If you have not done everything in your power to make this a safer world for everyone,” Dixon said, “then the blood of everyone who dies is also on your hands. Nobody’s hands are clean.”
Following Dixon’s comments Harvey, joined by Dolphus Pinckney, presented plaques honoring their efforts to combat violence to Community Against Violence members Brandon Bowman, Rasheen Fair, Derrick Eleazor and a fourth member who wished to remain unnamed.
The four men recently stepped forward to host events that have brought together young men from throughout Colleton County.
Bowman, the only Community Against Violence member able to attend the march, told the audience, “We do it out of the heart — we will keep doing it because it comes from the heart.”
Harvey then presented Saving Our Children One Child at a Time certificates to Jessica Harley, who works behind scenes with Community Against Violence and the Walterboro Police Department.
Harvey said the police department was being cited “because of its involvement with the children. They are getting out of their cars and participating.
“When you have a police department that is integrating with their community, who are out there walking and talking, dealing with community, you have to acknowledge that.”
The awards ended with the presentation of a special award honoring the late S.C. Sen. Pinckney. The award went to Rev. Maxwell.