Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Plans for Anti-Racist March Continues in West Virginia

November 02, 2007

Plans for march moving forward

By Gary Harki
Staff writer

As Saturday’s march supporting Megan Williams nears, police and organizers are discussing logistics and more groups are deciding whether to march.

About five people gathered in front of a nearly equal group of reporters at the state Capitol Thursday to voice their support for the march.

Sandra Mosley, leader of a community outreach group affiliated with First Baptist Church in Charleston, said the community needs to stand together against acts perpetuating violence against women.

“I feel its important people come out and be a part of the march and support Megan Williams because of the issues of violence against women,” she said. “I believe the march on Saturday will be very peaceful. It will be the first time we bring the community together to show support for our own.”

Doris Rowe, local leader of the group Women of Color, says the march is important for the community.

“We are also here to thank [Black Lawyers for Justice leader] Malik Shabazz and all of our African-American brothers who are standing with us,” she said. “We are also here today to let the world know we will not be intimidated.”

Shabazz, a leader of the march, has become a polarizing figure, partly because of previous comments that some groups have labeled anti-Semitic.

“We are tired of the media capitalizing on anti-Semitic remarks,” Rowe said.

Another group, West Virginians United for Social and Economic Justice, supports the NAACP and the Charleston Black Ministerial Alliance in their decision not to participate in the march, said Gary Zuckett, chairman of the group. Member organizations of the group include the state AFL-CIO, the state chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and the West Virginia Council of Churches.

“Now is the time for all West Virginia citizens to resist any action which would result in divisiveness between the races and people in our community. We must be united in our effort to see justice done in the courtroom,” Zuckett said in a prepared statement.

The Rev. Jim Lewis, an organizer of the group, said after the march is over local white and black leaders need to sit down and discuss the issues raised by the Megan Williams tragedy and the march.

An e-mail sent to a local television station alluded to the possibility that white supremacist groups may be coming to protest the march, said Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster. He cautioned that the e-mail was the only sign that such groups might show up.

Sgt. Jason Beckett, special events coordinator for Charleston police, would not say how many officers would be on hand Saturday. He said the march would cost the city about $8,000.

People will be able to start gathering at the south side of the Capitol about 10 a.m., he said. The rally itself starts at noon.

About 24 speakers are expected, including the Rev. Al Sharpton and Minister Hashim Nzinga, chief of staff for the New Black Panther Party, according to an event flier.

The march will start at about 3 p.m. at the Capitol. The route follows Washington Street, then south on Court Street, west on Virginia Street and ends at the federal building, Beckett said.

“We will have officers along the march route working traffic,” he said.

Officers will shut down parts of the route as the marchers walk, he said.

A pre-march prayer vigil will be held at the Logan County trailer where Williams was held today at 7 p.m. A caravan will leave the First Baptist Church on Shrewsbury Street at 5 p.m.

Shabazz told police the first time they met that he expected about 300 people, Beckett said.

“Now with all the attention it has gotten, that could have grown,” he said. “I don’t think anyone really knows.”

To contact staff writer Gary Harki, use e-mail or call 348-5163.

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