COLUMBIA, S.C. — Participants were dressed in their Sunday best as they gathered at Martin Luther King Park in the Five Points area of Columbia Sunday afternoon for a peaceful Million Man March to the State House. More than 1,000 people set off on foot around 12:30 p.m. Sunday, June 14.
Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook participated in the march and Columbia Police officers assisted on foot and in police vehicles, temporarily blocking intersections along the route along Gervais Street the the capitol.
An 18-wheeler flatbed truck lead the marchers along route, playing music and inspirational speeches from Martin Luther King Jr and Malcom X.
The marchers reached the State House grounds at the intersection of Main and Gervais streets a little after 1 p.m., chanting, "No justice, No peace." The march is just the latest of protests for social justice.
Protests began in Columbia, and in cities and towns across the United States, on May 29, after the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, while in the custody of police in Minneapolis, MN.
Around 1:30 p.m., organizers announced the program would begin in a few moments.
Th original Million Man March was held on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on Oct. 16, 1995. That march was organized by Louis Farrakhan to present a “vastly different picture of the Black male” in an effort to unite against the social and economic injustices facing the African American community. Speakers at the original Million Man March included Farrakhan, Martin Luther King III, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
During a short speaker program in Columbia, Million Man March organizer Leo Jones, Mayor Steve Benjamin, Ashley Leo and Aisa Blue addressed the crowd at the State House.
Blue said now is the time to demand equity in the classrooms, acknowledgement of the Gullah-Geechee language, and equity in housing. She ended with a plea to stop the killing of Black men and women before enumerating the list of recent officer-involved incidents from around the nation.
Leo said that consistency will be key in advancing any real change. The movement for social justice cannot be allowed to die out.
After the speeches, Jones encouraged the crowd to go to nearby tents set up on the grounds of the State House and register to vote.
Some of the groups represented at the march included 100 Black Men, NAACP, Lester Young and Amplify voter registration.
Chief Holbrook said the march was "powerful" and he was honored to be in attendance.