‘Today, we have to take a stand’

Kindergarten teacher Vicki Rayfield holds a photo of her student, 5-year-old Tyreik Gadsden, during a march Wednesday from Dunston Primary School in North Charleston to speak out against the violence that recently left Gadsden paralyzed

Incensed by a shooting last month that left a 5-year-old boy paralyzed, Dunston Primary School faculty, students and parents marched on a rainy Wednesday afternoon through the streets of North Charleston in a stand against gun violence.

Tyreik Gadsden graduated in May from kindergarten at the school on Remount Road. He spent a recent Friday afternoon running through Wannamaker County Park, Dunston Principal Janice Malone said.

“By Friday night, he was in the hospital. We don’t know if he’ll ever run again,” she said.

A stray bullet struck Tyreik in the back May 22 while he visited with his grandmother at her home on Charleston’s East Side.

Tyreik’s father, Ricky Gadsden, stopped by the event to thank the attendees for supporting his son, who is in North Carolina undergoing rehabilitation and treatment.

Gun violence in the Lowcountry has a reach that extends into area schools, Malone said. Students often complain to their teachers of having to duck or hide when bullets fly in their neighborhoods, she said.

“Today, we have to take a stand,” Malone told a crowd of more than 100 marchers who had gathered in the school’s cafeteria. “Life is beyond this building.”

Despite the rain, concerned adults and children marched down Remount Road and surrounding streets. Many clutched an umbrella in one hand and a sign in the other that called for justice and an end to the violence.

Passing motorists honked and residents cheered as the group stepped to chants of “A, B, C, 1, 2, 3, children’s lives matter to me.”

In a brief speech, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey referenced a brutal case of animal cruelty last week that spurred hundreds of calls and emails to the city demanding justice. But here a little boy was seriously wounded, he said. A suspect has not been publicly identified or arrested in the case.

“If we can’t reach out to help that family, who are we as a community?” Summey asked. “We have to protect our kids. ... We have to make sure that their quality of life is the best it can be.”

North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers and several other officers walked in the march and helped guide traffic around the participants.

Reina Carcamo, a 9-year-old third-grader at the school, helped translate chants for Spanish-speaking attendees. Reina knew Tyreik through a friend, she said.

“I was like, ‘Oh no! Why would a bad person do that? That’s not the right thing to do. I wish it never happened,’” she said.

Shock at hearing about his injuries later turned into a nervousness, she said.

“I used to go downtown with my mom all of the time, but after that, I was too scared,” she said. She recalled asking her mom to hire a baby sitter one night so she could avoid entering the city.

Her fear gradually decreased after she learned that the boy had survived the shooting, she said.

The school initially planned to march on its own, but the event grew as other concerned residents decided to join, Malone said.

“Even if it was just us, we were going to do it. It’s not about the number, it’s about the cause,” she said.

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