Andrew Dys

Black Lives Matter march in York set for Sunday

A Black Lives Matter march in Columbia drew about 800 people Sunday night.
A Black Lives Matter march in Columbia drew about 800 people Sunday night. FILE PHOTO - THE STATE

A Black Lives Matter stop the violence march is planned for York on Sunday evening as community activists seek to unify the public, police and people of all races in reponse to gun violence in York and police killings around America.

The event appears to be the first Back Lives Matter event with police in York County after similar events sweeping the country after the deaths of two black men at the hands of police last week followed by the shooting deaths of five officers at a Texas protest.

In York, where black leaders and police have been meeting for months to avoid problems facing other cities, organizers even met with police in advance, to promote both safety and unity. Organizers have invited police to speak at the end of the march.

“I admire their passion and wanting to make a difference in their community,” York Police Andy Robinson said of offering to block streets and provide safety for the marchers.

The march is set for 7: 30 p.m. Sunday. People will gather at Jefferson field on Pinckney Street, then head north on Congress Street toward downtown with a stop for speeches at Lifeway church on South Congress Street. The march will culminate downtown near the chamber of commerce for more speeches.

Black Lives Matter protests around the country have galvanized support for those demanding change after police shootings and other racial inequalities, but have also presented public safety problems that reached an awful zenith when the officers were killed July 7 in Dallas, where a gunman opened fire on the protesters and police.

The event – organized mainly by young people from York using Facebook and other social media – is being held to focus on the problems black people have had in dealing with police nationwide and recent violence in York County, including the unsolved murder of E'Monnie Dixon, a 17-year-old mother who was gunned down in April.

Organizers said on a Facebook event page that the march is for unity and that all people, regardless of race, religion or any other category, are invited. An organizer from York wrote on Facebook that the unsolved crimes and gun violence has to stop. Others have thanked the York police for the department’s willingness to be a part of making the march a success.

Black Lives Matter activists nationwide continue to hold public protests to bring awareness to the way blacks are treated by police. Many protests have had a mix of people committed to social change and equality.

Steve Love of York, a local and state NAACP official who did not organize the event but is offering guidance to the young people behind it, lauded the event as a way to show through nonviolent means the concerns of people through a show of a unity of all races and backgrounds.

“This is our future – young people who are now taking an active role in seeking equality and having their concerns addressed,” Love said. “Many people in York are supporting this because it is an event for all people with a common goal – the equality of all in dealing with the police, the community and the country.”

More than 100 people have said they plan to attend, including members of the clergy and other community activists. Participants plan on wearing black T-shirts or black outfits and organizers have asked participants to make and carry posters and signs.

Officers are expected to divert traffic to allow for the march. Robinson, the police chief, said that the marchers told his command staff that they want to bring attention to the violence problem, and his department will work to make sure that all people involved are safe.

Black leaders and police have held community meetings already this summer focused on working together to avoid problems that have plagued other places. Robinson told organizers he is aware of the unrest and disdain for law enforcement in other parts of our country, and cited the ongoing work between police and residents in York as ongoing success.

The police in York are “anticipating and planning for a peaceful, organized, event that will hopefully serve to unite and bring our community even closer together, while also bringing attention to the recent acts of violence in our community and letting those who perpetrated these acts know that it is not acceptable and will not be tolerated in our community,” Robinson said.

York City Manager Charles Helms said that he has been briefed by the police department and agrees that safety of all involved is the main concern.

York Mayor Eddie Lee said that people in York like many around the country have a profound sadness over what happened in Baton Rouge, La., outside St. Paul, Miin., and in Dallas. Lee said he welcomes the event to show unity in York. He stressed how York leaders, police and residents have maintained a conversation toward dealing with, and talking about, race.

“We have a common humanity in our pain over the killings of all these people in other places, and the people of York have shown that we are all part of the same family,” Lee said.

Police and black leaders in York County have denounced the killings of the two black men, as well as the shootings of the officers.

York is a small city of about 5,000 people but has a long civil rights history. The city’s Martin Luther King parade sponsored annually by the western York County branch of the NAACP is the oldest annual King day parade in South Carolina.

Sunday’s event starts three days of York County events aimed at uniting people against violence and also putting a light on black concerns about dealing with police. There is a Monday interfaith prayer vigil in Rock Hill and a Tuesday event in downtown Rock Hill where police and the community are set to meet and greet.

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