The pastor of a Charleston church where nine African-American worshippers were shot to death earlier this year led a march Saturday of good will, remembrance and hopes for the triumph of good over evil.
Flanked by relatives of the slain parishioners, as well as the father of a black man killed by a white law officer, the Rev. Norvel Goff of Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church led hundreds through the streets of the city.
Standing in front of the church known as Mother Emanuel, Goff sought to convey the message that good will was developing from the darkest of situations.
He stopped the marchers at his church, leading the crowd of several hundred in singing “We Shall Overcome,” as many participants — black and white — lifted their hands in a show of unity.
“We’re going to pray that God shows his favor on our efforts here today,” Goff said. “We are going to triumph over evil.”
During the march, organized by a labor union as part of several events known as Days of Grace, participants waved signs covering a variety of issues and demands, such as “Disarm the police!” and “Honor Reconstruction – Finish the Revolution!” Organizers in brightly colored T-shirts corralled the crowd as it wound through narrow Charleston streets, leading songs and chants, with some passers-by joining in.
Along with Goff walked the families of victims of two killings that shocked the Charleston area this year. He was joined by the father of Tywanza Sanders, who was among the nine killed at Mother Emanuel by a white gunman authorities say was motivated by racial hatred, and Walter Scott, an unarmed black man shot and killed while running from Michael Slager, a white officer in North Charleston.
Both accused shooters are awaiting trial, and the events for a time focused the nation’s eyes on Charleston. Relatives of some of those slain at the church known garnered wide attention for voicing words of forgiveness and sympathy for Dylann Roof, the accused in the church shootings, at his first court appearance.
One of those relatives, Nadine Collier, took to the podium before a crowd of about 500 gathered in Marion Square, a downtown Charleston park where marchers gathered and rallied for hours.
“My heart still hurts every day,” said Collier, her T-shirt bearing a portrait of her mother, Ethel Lance, one of the victims.
“You took something precious away from me … but I forgive you,” she added, repeating what she said at Roof’s hearing.
The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, read aloud the names of those killed at Mother Emanuel, saying the relatives who expressed forgiveness have been praised for their grace but were really doing what was right.
“They did what was necessary to begin to build a modern Southern movement,” he said, saying the sentiments mirrored the basic, peaceful tenets of the civil rights movement.
Source: The AP