Civil rights leader Malik Shabazz was back in Charleston for the second time in a week after the killing of Walter Scott by a North Charleston police officer, this time encouraging another Stono Rebellion.
“I come to stir the pot and let you know it’s alright,” he said, encouraging black residents to “stand up,” philosophically. “It’s time for you to stop being ashamed.”
The Stono Rebellion was the largest rebellion of slaves against slave owners, which took place in 1739 near the Stono River. Shabazz, president of Black Lawyers for Justice and a former New Black Panther Party leader who organized protests about the police shooting of a black man in Ferguson, Mo., told the crowd he was “looking for a fight so you can go free.”
He was one of several speakers Sunday night at a town hall meeting and “evidentiary hearing” at the International Longshoremen’s Association Hall.
The crowd of at least 200 was also encouraged to get up and air their grievances to panelists.
There were also artists at the event who sang, read poetry and danced.
The panel included Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott, S.C. Rep. David Mack III of Charleston, Black Lives Matter Charleston and youth activist Muhiyidin d’Baha, North Charleston activists Denise Cromwell and Demond McElveen, and Nation of Islam Minister DeAndre Muhammad.
“Our community is under attack. Our children are under attack,” Muhammad said. “Enough is enough. Our lives are at stake.”
He and others spoke about justice and the killing of black men, relating their deaths to the killing of Walter Scott, who was shot in the back by Patrolman 1st Class Michael T. Slager on April 4 as he fled after a traffic stop.
Cromwell said the meeting was meant to promote open dialogue and a positive change throughout the community. She also, along with almost every other speaker, encouraged the black community to register to vote.
A voter registration table was set up just outside the event.
Dot Scott praised Feidin Santana, who shot the video of Slager shooting Walter Scott, and applauded the young protesters for being out on the streets spreading the message about racial injustices in Charleston and North Charleston.
She also said she appreciated so many activists coming to Charleston to try and help ignite change, noting that it shouldn’t matter where they are from.
“You think they’re going to care where the doctor came from if they’re there to help you get well?” she asked.
Mack likened the gathering to a funeral, saying it was sad it took a death to get everyone together, but that it should energize folks to get involved and stay involved.
“We have to keep the pressure on,” he said, adding that residents could affect change by voting and controlling where they spent they’re money.
d’Baha was perhaps the most animated and began his speech by chanting with the crowd, “Turn up y’all, we all we got, we doing this for Walter Scott.”
He spoke about more than police brutality, encouraging a change in minimum wage and the Charleston school system.
He also said there needed to be more trust between the public and community leaders and police officers and that Black Lives Matter Charleston would soon be rolling out a project called, “We are watching you,” in which it teaches people to use cameras to constantly film police, encouraging better behavior and more respect.
“Why did officer Slager feel comfortable shooting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 times?” d’Baha asked.
He said the local group would also be holding candidate forums for community members to hear from prospective elected leaders.
Shabazz was the last panelist to speak, but took more time than the others.
He also moderated for more than an hour while audience members took to the microphone to share their concerns and experiences with local police.
“We’ve been oppressed for too long,” Shabazz said, raising one fist into the air. “Black power!”
A march planned for after the meeting was cancelled.
Reach Melissa Boughton at 937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughton.