Groups Pays tribute to victims of shooting in Charleston
More than 50 gather at busy intersection
BHC partner Merced Organizing Project’s youth leads the charge.
Brenda Rojas, 21, a UC Merced student, holds a sign while surrounded by demonstrators in Merced. About 50 people came together to show solidarity with the nine people killed last week in a historically black church in South Carolina by a white supremacist. Photo by: Thaddeus Miller / Merced Sun Star.
The killings of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., last week was another reminder that racism and segregation are far from over, local community organizers said this week during a prayer vigil in Merced.
More than 50 people gathered about 6 p.m. Wednesday at Olive Avenue and R Street – a location and time strategically chosen for its heavy traffic – to show solidarity with the victims’ families.
The shooting, organizers said, could easily have happened in Merced.
Claudia Gonzalez of the Merced Organizing Project’s Live Free campaign said there are several parallels between Merced and Charleston..
Gonzalez said the goal was to get passers-by talking about a problem that is real and local.
“We hope people can catch a glimpse of our demonstration and that they start paying more attention to this issue,” Gonzalez said.
Attendees, most dressed in white, offered a moment of silence, and choir members of Mount Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Church in Merced paid tribute to the victims with song.
Demonstrators also walked the crosswalks locked in arms as a symbol of unity, and the names of all nine victims were read out loud.
The Rev. Phil Jenkins said the news of the shooting can be easily overlooked, especially when it did not occur in a person’s own backyard. But violence is everywhere, he said, and people cannot discredit what is happening in their own city.
Barbara Roland, 71, of Merced holds a sign while surrounded by demonstrators in Merced. Photo by Thaddeus Miller / Merced Sun Star.
“Racism is ugly, no matter where it comes from,” he told demonstrators. “If you dislike someone only because of the color of their skin, there is something wrong with that.”
However, people are allowed to feel frustration, said Merced resident Barbara Roland. “I’m angry because that should not have happened,” she said. “We can get angry; it’s an emotion, we just can’t live on it.”
Jenkins told demonstrators that he understands many people are hurting, but he hopes that such displays remind people to stay powerful and hopeful.