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Residents Hold ‘Unity March’ in Memory of Charleston Church Shooting Victims; Stephen Colbert Makes an Appearance

( [email protected] ) Jun 23, 2015 01:28 PM EDT
Last week’s shooting at a historically black church in the South Carolina city of Charleston have failed to break the spirit of its residents. This was seen during a march for unity on Sunday night at one of the city's bridges.
Demonstrators in the "March for Black Lives" march through the streets after passing the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina June 20, 2015 three days after a mass shooting left people nine dead during a bible study at the church. (Reuters/Brian Snyder)

Last week's shooting at a historically black church in the South Carolina city of Charleston have failed to break the spirit of its residents. This was seen during a march for unity on Sunday night at one of the city's bridges.

According to a report from Melissa Boughton of Charleston Post Courier, thousands of people gathered across the Arthur Ravenel Bridge in Charleston as a form of solidarity to the nine victims who were gunned down in the city's historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Police estimated that 10,000 to 15,000 people showed up for the event termed as the Bridge to Peace Unity Chain.

"I want my kids to understand what this represents," Khalil Santos, who was with his children at the event, said. "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."

Santos added that the event happened at the same time as Father's Day.

"I sat and looked at the crowd, from all walks of life, and I feel promise," Santos said. "It gives me hope."

According to Boughton, the bridge was named after a former South Carolina lawmaker and Confederate flag supporter. People gathered on both sides of the bridge and met in the middle, greeting each other with open arms, stopping for impromptu prayers, and singing hymns.

"I'm very emotional," Ashley Morris of Durham, N.C., said. "Just seeing all the different cultures come together for God. I'm proud, very proud."

Morris added that the takeaway message from this event is that love will overcome hate in Charleston.

"This was just over and beyond," she said. "It just shows you the strength of this city, and that's a lesson I'm going to take back to Durham."

Charleston residents Angie Brose and Lauren Bush both thought the gathering could serve as a great way to show the rest of the United States the true grit of their city.

"It's a showing of how amazing Charleston has been," Brose said.

"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."

Comedian Stephen Colbert, who hails from South Carolina and will take over David Letterman's late-night slot at CBS later this year, also made an appearance in Charleston; Boughton reported that he calls the city home. He sent out a short video of the march on Twitter.

"Peace and Love and Unity in the Holy City," Colbert wrote in describing the march in Charleston.

Dorsey Fairbairn, an organizer of the walk, told Boughton that it was "amazing" to see the outpouring of support across Charleston. For her, the feeling was akin to being "in a movie."

"The people raised in Charleston are not raised knowing hate - they're raised in love, and that was obvious tonight," Fairbairn said. "I hope the families feel the honor and the love from this community."

Fairbairn added that her idea about holding a march came from her concern for similar tragedies that played out across the United States on a seemingly regular basis.

"I just felt compelled to do something," Fairbairn said. "I just feel like this is happening too much in our country and this cannot be the norm."


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