CHARLESTON, South Carolina — The night after video of Walter Scott’s killing was released was peaceful but not without anger.
At a Wednesday night vigil for the North Charleston resident slain by police officer Michael Slager, state Representative Wendell Gilliard let loose.
“Young black men, unarmed, are being hunted down like deer,” Gilliard proclaimed. “The sound that you hear on that film, I get that sound all the time traveling back and forth from Charleston to Columbia. Everybody would tell me, ‘Don’t get excited, Representative, because it’s deer hunting season.’ That young man was hunted down like a deer, like so many other black men in our country. This is not a North Charleston problem. This is not a Charleston problem. This is America’s problem, and we have yet to resolve the issue.”
Gillard is no stranger to Charleston voters. With roots as a union organizer, he made his way to the Charleston City Council in 1997, where he served for 11 years, causing a stir in 2003 over his opposition to scantily clad College of Charleston coeds sunbathing in the city’s Marion Square park. He helped put surveillance cameras on that park, and now, as state representative, he’s working to put cameras on cops.
Gilliard then went on to call out U.S. Senator Tim Scott, a black Republican, for not taking a stronger stance against the North Charleston police department. Gillard asked the vigil to “turn it into something constructive,” before accusing Governor Nikki Haley of projecting “hate from the top.”
“Somebody should call her down,” he said. “All we get is anti-union rhetoric in South Carolina, while young black men are being killed for no reason at all.”
The vigil continued with poetry, songs, and a candle-lighting ceremony, led by #BlackLivesMatter Charleston organizer Muhiyidin d’Baha counting off each shot at Scott.