CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Hundreds of residents gathered at Haddad Riverfront Park on Wednesday night to stand against the increased violence affecting the area in recent weeks.
The event was organized by area ministers at the request of Deanna McKinney, who’s son Tymel was shot to death while sitting on the front porch of their West Side home.
“We decided it would be a great time to show solidarity,” said the Rev. Matthew Watts of Grace Bible Church. “Not only in support of the family, but support for the youth, teens and community in general.”
The rally began with a march in the evening rain to the park. One group began at Grace Bible Church on the West Side while another began at First Baptist Church on the East End as a sign of unity between the different areas of Charleston.
The two groups came together at the amphitheater in the park where music was provided by a joint choir composed of members from three separate churches and various speakers from the community took the stage.
Among them was Charleston police chief Brent Webster, who encouraged the community and law enforcement to continue cooperating. “Because of what I’ve done the last 20 years, I’ve seen this too often. We need to put an end to it.”
The rally was not only a show of unity against violence, but also a call to action to improve the future of Charleston and its residents.
“I believe that no one is a bad person,” Capitol High School student Jeff Roach told the crowd. “We need to take a stand and strive to show young ones of all ages that there is another route of exploring life in a positive way.”
The last speaker before a short sermon was McKinney. She thanked those who have helped her deal with the loss of Tymel, her only child. While her son will be missed, she hopes his passing will serve a greater purpose and start the movement to put an end to the violence.
“We lost one, but we are going to gain many,” she said. “My son will not die in vain.”