Rock Hill residents march for change after gun violence

More than 100 people marched through a Friedheim Road neighborhood Saturday to show they care after a rash of gun violence that left one dead and several injured.

“We want to bring that love, joy and safety back to the neighborhood,” said Dequonna Wise, one of the march organizers. “We cannot live in our neighborhood afraid.”

Residents and some local dignitaries chanted and sang during a 20-minute “Because I Care” march through streets near Friedheim Park, including Scoggins Street, the side of a November murder in which three men have been charged and a fourth is being sought.

Wise said march organizers want to bring people out of their homes and encourage them to mingle and to get to know their neighbors.“The goal is to get neighbors to be neighbors again,” she said. “Know who you live beside.”

The Rev. Derrick Belton, lead organizer of the march, said it was not a protest, but rather a show that residents and community leaders care about where they live and the lives of their young people – and they want to stop the violence.

“We’ve gotta do something,” Belton said as marchersgathered Saturday morning at Friedheim Park. “Enough is enough. I believe God led me to organize this march.”

Belton said neighbors “are really concerned,” and he said he believes the community needs to pull together. Several local organizations that work with young people came to meet people at the park and to provide information.

“We don’t want them to think that we don’t care. We want them to know that we’re here,” he said. “Our mission is to do all that we can to transform some of these people who have taken the wrong route.”

Rock Hill police Officer William Andrews, who works in the neighborhood as a member of a new community service unit, said there is a stigma that crime, drugs and gun violence are accepted there.

But, Andrews said, that’s not the case.

“People want to let us know what’s going on, and they want to clean up their community,” Andrews said. He said Saturday’s march was a visible show of support, but “we care every day.”

Belton said he felt spurred to action after the killing on Scoggins Street, where he lives. Last week, neighbors found a shot-up car on Keels Avenue, a dead 18-year-old man inside.

Jarrius Harding was killed and one arrest – another person in the car – was made. In the March 3 and 4 Cases on the south side of Rock Hill, three people were shot in one home, and two more homes were shot at. In one of the incidents, children were inside a home peppered by bullets.

Wise said residents need to know that people who want safe neighborhoods are going to take charge. “We need to take back our neighborhood.”

Jennifer Becknell: 803-329-4077