SC’s King Day at the Dome returns in person for first time since pandemic began

Monday’s “King Day at the Dome” marked the first time the annual Columbia event was held in person since the pandemic started.
Published: Jan. 16, 2023 at 6:47 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 16, 2023 at 9:24 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Hundreds of people gathered outside the South Carolina State House on Monday to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and reflect on how to carry it forward.

Monday’s “King Day at the Dome” marked the first time the annual Columbia event was held in person since the pandemic started.

The last in-person event was in 2020, shortly before the state’s First in the South presidential primary, and several Democrats running for president that year were in attendance, including now-President Joe Biden.

This year’s event featured Congressman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, as its keynote speaker. Thompson recently chaired the U.S. House of Representatives committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“If Martin was here today, he’d say, ‘Thank goodness for those folk in South Carolina; they haven’t forgotten my dream; they’re keeping that dream alive; thank God for the work that they continue to do,’” Thompson said.

But, Thompson added, that work is not done.

He and other speakers at King Day at the Dome urged South Carolinians to learn from history.

“We must continue to fight forward,” NAACP South Carolina State Conference President Brenda Murphy said. “We cannot go to sleep. As matter of fact, I think we’ve been sleeping too long. We’ve gotta wake up. We have a lot of work to do.”

The theme of this year’s event was, “If it happened once, it can happen again.”

Before the State House rally, participants marched down Columbia’s Main Street, following the same route hundreds of African-American students took in 1961 at the height of the Civil Rights Movement to protest segregation. Nearly 200 people were arrested for disturbing the peace that day.

“When we see the water drawing back, we cannot fall asleep,” State Rep. Ivory Thigpen, D – Richland, said. “We cannot stand still. We cannot be apathetic. We cannot wait until the presidential election. We must rally our people and our troops now. We must register people to vote. We must act now!”

Other speakers encouraged the crowd to get to the polls in future elections, warning them that not voting has consequences.

One mentioned several Black state representatives who lost their seats at the State House this past November, and multiple speakers, including Thompson, noted how a federal court had recently struck down South Carolina’s new Congressional map, drawn by the state legislature, for being racially gerrymandered after the NAACP sued over it.

“We need to push our legislators to change things that need to be changed, that are important to our community,” NAACP South Carolina State Conference Youth and College Division President Courtney McClain said.

King Day at the Dome started more than 20 years ago as a protest against the Confederate flag being flow on top of the South Carolina State House dome.

The event has continued after the flag was eventually removed from State House grounds in 2015, and on Monday, some speakers lamented the presence of Confederate monuments and statues that remain on the grounds.