Lowcountry residents stage gun violence protest march

Denise Cromwell leads marchers with chants of “stop the violence, save our children,” during a demonstration Saturday against gun violence.

It’s like assembling a puzzle, investigators have told her.

Most of the pieces are there. But without that last piece, Monica Jefferson said, the gunman who fatally shot her son, Malcolm, on Oct. 8, 2013, in West Ashley, may never be brought to justice. It was his 18th birthday.

“I believe that remaining piece is someone coming forward and talking. It’s not OK to keep silent,” Jefferson said.

Jefferson is no longer the person she was before her son’s death. The wave of emotions that hit her in the years since were something akin to a roller coaster ride, she said.

It’s a level of pain that no one can understand unless they’ve been there.

“You go out there and kill someone’s child for no reason — they don’t see how much this hurts,” Jefferson said.

The mother clutched in her hands a banner Saturday afternoon — her son’s name and face blazoned on the plastic, white clouds and blue skies filling the surrounding space. Roughly 150 others surrounded her as they marched in unity through the streets of North Charleston. Several were mothers also burdened with similar stories of loss and suffering.

The “Stop the Violence” march served as a kickoff for a larger initiative, “Parents Against Gun Violence,” said Pastor Thomas Ravenell, one of the demonstration’s organizers. In addition, he said, attendees hoped to memorialize Lowcountry homicide victims, particularly cases which remain unsolved.

Participants carried with them signs containing messages of peace. Their chants of “Stop the violence, save our children” were met with waves, honks and cheers from passersby.

Sweat poured from their brows as temperatures soared into the 90s. But they carried on in a show of unity that began on North Charleston’s Remount Road and ended with a reception at the Persephone Moultrie Community Center in the city’s Ten Mile neighborhood.

The demonstration was planned weeks before a shooting June 17 that killed nine parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Multiple people who helped organize the event lost loved ones in the bloodshed, said one organizer Denise Cromwell.

“While we have the attention of the world, we have to key in on all those areas of need,” Cromwell said — one issue of which is illegal guns on the Lowcountry’s streets.

“We’re asking the government to investigate where those guns are coming from. ... Our kids are dying by the hands of those illegal guns,” she said.

Grieving mothers and other concerned citizens distribute fliers monthly in Lowcountry neighborhoods to encourage residents to help investigators with unsolved cases.

“If a young man looks a mother in the eyes and sees compassion — even if they only have a low conscious, it will break somebody,” Ravenell said.

In her experience, Tamika Myers, mother of slain woman Sierra Denise Truesdale, said visits into area neighborhoods are often met with resistance from those who view coming forward as “snitching.”

“That’s how they let the devil destroy them,” Myers said. “And the only people left to hurt are the parents.”

She welcomed the show of support from Saturday’s crowd with a smile.

“Almost 200, and more on the way. ... It just goes to show that our children’s lives aren’t in vain. We’re doing what we can to honor them,” Myers said.

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.