CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Sunday evening, dozens showed up in Charleston for a rally and vigil amid numerous recent mass shootings across the country and a hate crime bill moving through South Carolina state legislature.
Local lawmakers, pastors, activists, Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano and Mayor John Tecklenburg attended the One Nation, United Against Hate event.
“There’s been a rise in hate crimes, hate group activity, hate-fueled attacks against people,” organizer Rev. Thomas Dixon said.
A report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last year showed the number of hate crimes at the highest level in more than a decade.
Today, the crowd held a vigil to honor those lost in mass killings, from Mother Emanuel in 2015 to the recent shootings across the country.
“Lifting the lives of those whose lives really did matter,” pastor and county councilman Kyon Middleton said. “The lives of those nine, the lives of all of those who continue to become victims.”
They also called for support of H. Bill 3620, a hate-crime bill that South Carolina House members passed through second reading on Wednesday which would strengthen penalties for violent, hate-motivated crimes.
“To make sure those who hate others because of who they are know that they are not welcome here in the state of South Carolina,” Brandon Fish with the Charleston Jewish Community Relations Council said.
Speakers talked about issues facing many different minority communities.
Lilly Little Water with the South Carolina Native Indian Affairs Commission spoke about struggles facing Native American communities, including higher rates of missing and murdered indigenous woman across the country.
“Because it is upsetting and frustrating and frightening,” Little Water said. “But the proper response isn’t hate.”
Dixon said he plans to continue events like this in the hopes of building the movement.
“We’ll be doing this once again in three months and then again in six months in order to build momentum,” Dixon said. “And to get more people involved in a real, live unification movement.”