In Charleston, a city comes together in wake of racist killings

(Common Dreams) – As many as twenty thousand people came together on a bridge in Charleston, South Carolina on Sunday evening, marching in the name of love and unity against the racist violence that took the lives of nine people last week in a historic black church.

Estimates put the number of people between 15,000 and 20,000-significantly more than the 3,000 or so originally expected-who walked across the Arthur Ravenel Bridge that spans the Cooper River and connects the city of Charleston to the suburb of Mount Pleasant. Individuals and families marched while people embraced, sang songs, and held signs expressing their love for community and one another.

According to the Huffington Post, the crowd of people stretched “more than two miles from the town of Mount Pleasant to the city of Charleston. Observers on the bridge, and thousands more at the base, joined hands to create a ‘unity chain,’ then held a moment of silence that lasted five minutes in honor of the fallen.” As the Associated Press recounts, when the marchers from each side met in the middle of bridge, there was clapping and singing of Civil Rights-era song, “This little light of mine.”

Local resident Khalil Santos, a father who spoke with the Charleston Post & Courier while he walked with his young son atop his shoulders, had a smile on his face as he said, “I want my kids to understand what this represents… I want them to understand that hate is not the way to live. I want them to have brighter futures and I want them to see the unity, no matter race or color. We are still united.”

All around him, according to the Post & Courier, “people were smiling, laughing, hugging and greeting strangers. They carried signs of love, touting peace and telling the church of their solidarity. They stopped for impromptu prayers and sang hymns.”

Another participant from Charleston, Lauren Bush, said the march was a beautiful response to last week’s hateful killing, even as she acknowledged the more arduous task ahead of ending entrenched racism. “It’s going to take a lot more than just holding hands across a bridge, but to see this response, it’s a good start,” Bush said. “We will rise above the hate.”

Photo: On June 21, thousands of marchers join hands in a moment of silence in the middle of Charleston’s main bridge in a show of unity after nine black church parishioners were gunned down during a Bible study, in Charleston, S.C. /AP.