Groups criticize SC Senate’s failure to pass hate crime bill
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - With two weeks left in the current legislative session, groups held a news conference on the steps of the South Carolina Statehouse to call for last-minute action to pass a hate crimes bill.
South Carolina is one of two states that doesn’t have a statewide law against hate crimes.
The groups and members of the South Carolina House joined together to criticize the Senate for not passing H.3620, the Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crime Bill.
At the news conference, advocates for the bill called out the names of the state senators who they claim to be preventing the legislation from moving forward.
“We still want to ask them why we want to know the real reason they would not sign this bill,” Elder James Johnson of the Racial Justice Network said.
The list of senators’ names read at the news conference included Lowcountry representatives Sens. Larry Grooms and Brian Adams.
Grooms said he is willing to vote for the bill, but not before a bill regarding school choice is decided. Adams said the bill will not “stop hate” and will hurt low-income areas. However, he said he will continue to work with other lawmakers to reach a resolution on such a bill.
The bill is named after the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the state senator and lead pastor of Mother Emanual AME Church in downtown Charleston who was gunned down along with eight of his parishioners in a shooting on June 17, 2015.
The convicted church shooter, Dylann Roof, who is white, opened fire at the end of a Wednesday night Bible study at the historically Black church and told investigators he hoped to start a race war.
“You would think that nine murders born out of hate, and one of these nine was a member of this General Assembly would be bad enough,” Rep. Jermain Johnson (D-Richland Co.) said. “You would think that this would be bad enough to move the General Assembly to do the right thing. But yet here we are standing in front of you today. Asking, begging, pleading for them to do the right thing. "
Blondelle Gadsden, a member of the church and the sister of Myra Thompson, one of the victims of the shooting, also spoke at the rally.
“Today is bittersweet for me because there are still people who do not deem this heinous crime as being the most devastating situation that has happened in South Carolina,” she said. “So I say to you this morning that my heart will always be heavy with the loss of those individuals. But I’m now wondering if not passing a hate crime bill is just as bad.”
Anthony Scott, the brother of Walter Scott, who was fatally shot by a North Charleston Police officer in April 2015, also addressed the crowd. Michael Slager, the officer who shot Scott, pleaded guilty in 2017 to a charge of violating Scott’s civil rights under the color of the law.
“They say that was not a hate crime,” Scott said of the shooting. “That’s nothing but hate.”
Scott said South Carolina has a great history of hate, saying the state ranks last in all the right reasons but first in all the wrong reasons.
“This is not about black and white. This is not about politics. This is not about Democrats or Republicans. This is about doing the right thing,” Scott said.”If you change South Carolina, you’ll change the south. It’s time for a change in the south.”
He said we need for the holdouts in the state Senate to “get on board.”
Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D-Charleston) said as lawmakers, it is their moment “to stand up for righteousness and justice.”
Gilliard said it is important to mention that there people who are good on both sides of the aisle.
“But we also must be reminded that it’s the people who sent us here to do the will of the people. That’s why we stand before you today,” he said.
He then encouraged people who want change in the state and in the country to keep two words in mind: “Go vote.”
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