Black law school students arrange protest, aim to start ongoing discussions

Students enter the law library building on the first day of classes at the Charleston School of Law Monday in 2014. Members of the Black Law Students Association at the Charleston School of Law will gather Monday in silent protest of Walter Scott's killing by a police officer at the Medical University of South Carolina library.

College students across South Carolina are being asked to gather Monday in silent protest of Walter Scott’s killing by a police officer in an action aimed at starting ongoing conversations, members of the Black Law Students Association at the Charleston School of Law and University of South Carolina said.

A bystander’s video, now seen around the world, shows a North Charleston police officer firing eight times as Scott, 50, runs away following a traffic stop April 4. Scott was hit in the back multiple times and the officer, 33-year-old Michael Slager, was charged with murder and fired from the police force after the video became public Tuesday.

“We recognize that North Charleston moved quickly in taking action, but there is more work that needs to be done,” said Aris Hanchard of Summerville, a second-year student at the Charleston School of Law and president of the Black Law Students Association chapter.

“We’ll all wear green shirts, like Walter Scott was wearing, and name tags that say ‘I am Walter Scott’,” she said.

The silent protest is expected to take place at campuses across South Carolina, and in other states.

“We want to encourage other jurisdictions to get body cameras,” Hanchard said. “One of the most important things to me, because people are listening, is to see other cities having conversations about taking action as they have in North Charleston.”

Joseph Wideman, president-elect of the University of South Carolina chapter of the national Black Law Students Association, also said the goal is to start discussions that will need to continue.

“I know these conversations are hard, and people get defensive, but these are discussions we need to have,” he said. “This is just a starting point, but it needs to be on us, as students, to reach out and make sure these conversations continue.”

In addition to body cameras, Wideman said attention needs to be given to “systemic issues with the police and the communities they are supposed to be protecting, and why those relationships have been strained.”

“We want to also make sure we have a voice for the officers who go out every day and risk their lives and do the right thing,” he said.

Hanchard said race is an issue because black men are “one group that is being affected the most.”

Scott was black, Slager white.

“If it was just white women, or just the elderly, I would want us to be having the same conversation,” said Hanchard. “Body cameras would benefit any and all races, any and all genders.”

In Charleston, Hanchard said students have been asked to gather from 12:15 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. outside the Medical University of South Carolina library, 171 Ashley Ave.

In Columbia, Wideman said a gathering location had not been selected, but students were being urged to wear green shirts and “I am Walter Scott” signs throughout the day.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552.