50 protest woman’s July 22 death in jail

About 50 people gathered in Marion Square before marching through the College of Charleston campus on Friday chanting "Say her name! Joyce Curnell!" -- protesting the jail death of Joyce Curnell. Wade Spees/Staff February 26, 2016

Stephen Corson didn’t know Joyce Curnell or anyone in her family, but when he heard her story, he was outraged.

“It’s just wrong,” said the 21-year-old West Ashley resident. “It should have never happened.”

Corson turned to a friend, Khari Lucas, 20, and together the two organized through social media a march to call attention to Curnell’s death. About 50 people — mostly former or current College of Charleston students — turned out for the event Friday.

Curnell, 50, of Edisto Island died in Charleston County jail on July 22, 2015, after she was arrested at a hospital a day earlier for failing to pay court fines. She vomited all night and couldn’t make it to a bathroom. Some medical staffers ignored the jail officials’ requests to tend to her, Curnell’s family has said.

Curnell’s family filed a notice this week to sue the jail’s medical contractor, Carolina Center for Occupational Health, for malpractice.

The protesters on Friday carried signs and chanted, “Say her name! Joyce Curnell!” From Marion Square, they marched along King, George and St. Philip streets before returning to the square at midday.

Corson was pleased that so many people showed up.

“It means a whole lot to me,” he said. “When I started this, I didn’t expect this big of a turnout, and to see this community coming together is a huge thing. We need to stand up to the injustices that are happening, not only around our own community but nationwide.”

Andrew Costa, a College of Charleston student from James Island, said he marched because “I think nobody should have to endure what Joyce endured.”

“She should have had water,” Costa said. “She should have had medical treatment. ... We need to be the voice for Joyce and let not only our government know but let the world know that this is not OK for anybody to experience anywhere.”

Dot Scott, president of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP, said it “warms my heart” to see so many young adults at the rally.

James Johnson, the National Action Network’s president for its South Carolina affiliates, also said it made him proud.

“I really do appreciate the spirit that’s here,” said Thomas Dixon, founder of The Coalition: People United to Take Back Our Community and a new Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate. He praised the “multi-ethnical gathering.”

“No matter which way we look at this, everybody standing here ... we’re all involved in the struggle,” he said.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 843-937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.