State representatives’ call to prayer event brings together diverse crowd, addresses gun reform

Verde Hilton and Jessica Boylston-Fagonde pray together as state Reps. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, and Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, host a prayer rally at Marion Square focusing on race relations.

If there’s one thing a black Democrat and a white Republican can agree on, it’s the power of prayer.

State Reps. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, and Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, joined forces Thursday night to bring the community together for a call to prayer in Marion Square. It was spurred by the recent killings of police officers and black men.

“There can be no social change without economic justice for all,” Gilliard said. “That’s what we have to preach and teach. No police officer that wears a badge has a right to lose their life unjustly. No black man, no matter what he’s doing, has the right to lose their life unjustly. We are all one in the eyes of God.”

There were about 60 people of all ages and races at the event, many holding signs to bring attention to gun violence and wearing shirts declaring their political beliefs. Several community leaders spoke about common sense gun reform, such as closing what has become known as the “Charleston loophole,” and banning semi-automatic high-capacity magazine weapons. They also prayed and spoke about the mass shooting last year at Emanuel AME Church.

Limehouse said he didn’t necessarily agree with the gun control speeches, that he was a “Second Amendment guy,” but the event meant more than that.

“That’s the great thing here,” he said “We don’t always have to agree.”

He added that he was proud of the diverse crowd and pointed out that everyone was pro-law enforcement and 100 percent for their community. He said there would be more similar events in the future.

“We’ve just come together beautifully as a people,” he said. “When adversity is handed to you, you don’t handle it with violence. You don’t fight hate with hate; you fight hate with love.”

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg also made an appearance, along with the Rev. Anthony Thompson, whose wife, Myra, was one of nine killed last year at Bible study at Emanuel AME.

“We’ve just had some tragic violence in our country over the last several weeks,” Tecklenburg said. “You have to ask yourself, ‘When is enough enough?’ ”

He encouraged the community to contact lawmakers about gun reform and called for harsher penalties for those carrying illegal firearms.

“I fully believe in the power of prayer, but I do think we need to add meaningful action to that prayer,” Tecklenburg said.

Thompson called for more conversation about God and said that he couldn’t get through everything without a higher power.

“We’ve left God out of so many things, but he’s never left us, and that’s the point of all this,” he said.

Reach Melissa Boughton at 843-937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughtonPC.