CHESTER, S.C. (WBTV) - After two recent shootings just days apart in Chester, S.C., people who live there say it’s time to stop the violence.
It’s one of the reasons why Larry Hill has led the effort to organize a big march and rally for this Saturday, Sept. 14, and he’s hoping thousands of people will turn out.
“I’m originally from Harlem, New York, and when I came down here in the late 60s I was amazed at how open everything was as far as safety,” said Hill.
He adds much has changed in the last 50 years.
"About 20 years ago, that’s when murders were starting to take place, and it was a mystery as to why it was happening,” he said.
Hill says since then his concerns have only grown, which is why he reached out to Chester County Sheriff Max Dorsey, who took office back in May, about planning the “March for Freedom from Gun Violence.” He’s been working with numerous others to get the word out ever since.
“He has put a lot of time, money and energy into bringing all kinds of people together, so I’m honored to be a part of it and I’m excited that it’s going to be a good thing for our community,” said Sheriff Dorsey.
Dorsey says shots fired calls are already up year-over-year in Chester - as are the number of people or property that’s been hit by gunfire. Dorsey says in 2018 within a 4-mile radius of the City of Chester, law enforcement responded to 109 shots fired calls for the entire year. To date in 2019, they’ve already responded to 130. The sheriff says of those calls in 2018, 25 people, homes or vehicles were hit by gunfire. That number is already up to 30 in 2019.
Hill believes gun violence is an issue law enforcement can’t tackle alone and is the main reason he felt led to hold the rally.
“The number one goal we have is this,” said Hill. “We want to tap into the conscious mind of the citizens Chester to make them realize that law-enforcement cannot do their jobs without the help of the community. It’s impossible - they cannot solve cases without the help the community.”
That includes the shooting death of 36-year-old Andrew Johnson who was killed last Wednesday. While Chester police have persons of interest in Johnson’s death, they’re still asking for additional info from the community.
Johnson’s death hits home for Kevin Taylor, who pastors Ember Church in Chester, and is one of the big reasons he’ll be marching on Saturday, too.
“I found out that I coached him in baseball…that’s going on about 20 something years ago,” said Taylor. “Here’s this kid- he was out on the baseball field and who knew that his life was going to be cut it short. So for me, I think about the kids right on his baseball fields now, and I just feel like as a community we need to not only think about the people who are currently involved in violence but we need to think about our community long-term.”
Organizers say people will gather at 8am at the top of the hill near Main Street in downtown Chester and march to Joe Collins stadium. If you would prefer not to march, organizers say there will be Gospel music performances starting around 8am inside the stadium. The march to the stadium will begin at 9am with speakers starting at 10:30. Hill says he believes the event will end around 2pm. For further information you can reach out to Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Organizers add they are encouraging civic groups to wear their groups t-shirts or colors to the event.
“Whether they belong to Boy Scouts or a football team or civic organization or neighborhood club, and if they wear their different shirts and they all come together at one location, we can stress the fact that we can all be different," said Sheriff Dorsey, “but we can do it together in a safe environment.”