COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – Several activist groups, community leaders and shooting survivors came together on the State House steps to hold a rally and bring attention to the state senate’s failure to pass the Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crime Bill.
South Carolina leaders are looking for answers after nine state senators opposed blocked a hate crime bill from passing.
“We are asking them, ‘Why?,’” Elder James Johnson, founder of the Racial Justice Network, said. “We want to know why? Something that’s going to help the whole South Carolina. White, Black, LGBT, everybody has experienced hate. So, we want to ask these senators, ‘Why?’”
Lowcountry representative Wendell Gilliard drafted the bill and says it is their responsibility as leaders to help protect the people who elected them.
“If we are about the business of the people,” Gilliard said, “and especially as lawmakers, this is our moment to stand up for righteousness and justice.”
Other elected officials also spoke about the importance of the bill being passed.
“Regardless of your ethnicity,” Representative Ivory Thigpen said, “regardless of your color, regardless of your orientation, regardless of how you choose to live your life, you could live safely knowing that this government, that this state will protect you no matter where you live, no matter where you go.”
A family member of one of the Emanuel Nine says her heart still hurts from the shooting seven years ago, and although passing the hate crime bill won’t bring back her family, it will save many lives in the future.
“We are now asking that you look to saving lives of other individuals and ensuring that,” Blondelle Gadsden, a family member of the Emanuel Nine, said, “as a community, we love and care about one another.”
Anthony Scott, who’s brother Walter Scott was gunned down by a police officer in 2015, says there shouldn’t be any opposition to this bill, but because of the state’s history, he’s not surprised.
“This is not about Black and white,” Scott said. “This is not about politics. This is not about Democrats or Republicans. This is about doing the right thing.”
Wyoming and South Carolina are currently the only two states in the U.S. that have not passed a hate crime bill.