A young couple drove more than 1,000 miles from Oklahoma to Charleston from Thursday morning into Friday afternoon with a stack of "Save Veronica" posters and a tape dispenser in each of their pockets.
James and Kacey Arnold and their two children, 3-year-old Ahyla and 1-year-old Silvanus, spent more than a day on the road to be here this afternoon for a rally to bring a 2-year-old girl back to Charleston from their home state.
James Island residents Matt and Melanie Capobianco adopted Veronica at birth, but Dusten Brown, a 30-year-old Oklahoma man and registered member of the Cherokee Nation, filed for paternity and custody four months later.
Brown won custody of Veronica under the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law designed to preserve Native American families. The case now rests in the S.C. Supreme Court.
James Arnold is a friend of Veronica's birth mother, a woman who selected the Capobiancos to raise her daughter and who considered the James Island couple her extended family. When James Arnold learned about the rally today at Local Market + Coffee Bar in West Ashley and the candlelight ceremony at Colonial Lake, he told his wife, "We're going to South Carolina."
Their daughter drew a picture of the Capobianco family, paying careful attention to Veronica's curly hair, and preserved it in a plastic sleeve to present to them today. Back in Oklahoma, other supporters will leave their porch lights on tonight in a show of solidarity.
Along their drive here, the family stopped to hang some 40 posters at gas stations and rest stops and to talk to anyone who asked what "Save Veronica" means. They chatted up an Arkansas police officer who promised to hang a sign at his precinct.
They waved to any trucker who honked, hoping he would hop on his CB radio and spread the word behind the posters.
"We put some of them next to trash cans," James Arnold said after checking into his hotel Friday afternoon in Charleston. "Everybody has trash, and when they go to throw it away -- they're going to see it."
James faced threats of physical violence from Brown supporters posting on social media websites but said he doesn't give much thought to those cyber-attacks.
He brought his family here to meet some of the 20,000 people who signed a petition to bring Veronica back, he said, and to thank them for supporting his friend's freedom to choose a family for her daughter.
If you go
What: 'An Evening for Veronica: Community, Caring and Candlelight.' Family friendly event with live music, food and drinks, and a silent auction, followed by a candlelight gathering.
When: 4-8 p.m. today
Where: Local Market + Coffee Bar, 1331 Ashley River Road, from 4-6 p.m. Colonial Lake downtown from 7-8 p.m.
How much: Suggested $10 donations to help with the Capobiancos' legal fees.
To learn more: Call Caitlin Ramsey at 216-0442.