The city of Charleston, S.C. joined together on Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in a show of support and solidarity Sunday after a Wednesday night Bible study shooting that left nine black church parishioners dead.
Police estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people showed up to what organizers called the “Bridge to Peace,” according to Post and Courier. The cable-stayed bridge, which connects Charleston to Mount Pleasant, was lit with American pride.
While chants of “USA! USA!” and “Charleston Strong!” accompanied the waving of American flags, cars drove slowly beside the roaring crowd, honking in support. Impromptu choruses of song and prayer broke out along the way. Some wore T-shirts saying “#charlestonstrong” and “I am Charleston.” Others carried signs that quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
“I want my kids to understand what this represents,” one participant, Khalil Santos, said. “I want them to understand that hate is not the way to live. I want them to have brighter futures and I want them to see the unity, no matter race or color. We are still united.”
Among a crowd of smiling, laughing and hugging strangers, Santos said he felt hope.“All that this tragedy has done is unite a community under one love,” 19-year-old Karson Bankhead said. “Seeing so many people come together is really fulfilling.”
Bankhead said that she thought the city’s uplifting reactions to the hate crime was an opportunity to make a statement.
Charleston resident Angie Brose said she thought the event was a great way to show America what the city is made of, pointing out the strength that has prevailed since the tragedy.
Lauren Bush, also of Charleston, said that even though it might take more than just holding hands across a bridge, it’s a good start.
“We will rise above the hate,” she said.
The alleged gunman, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, was charged with nine counts of murder that took place at the Emanuel A.M.E. Bible service. Police said that Roof began shooting just within an hour of joining the congregation.
Comedian Stephen Colbert also showed up to participate in the walk to show support for his hometown. (RELATED: Celebrities Respond To Tragic Charleston Shooting)
“I can’t even process it; I feel like I’m in a movie,” said Dorsey Fairbairn, who helped organize the event. “I just feel like this is happening too much in our country and this cannot be the norm.”
Fairbairn praised the quick preparations provided and executed by the Mount Pleasant and Charleston police departments and other organizers. The results of the turnout even exceeded the 3,000 they needed for the plan of making a human chain across the bridge.
She also drew attention to the irony of the night, as she and other organizers never even made it to the bridge. Instead, Fairbairn and others walked around Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park as they awed at the city’s spirit. (RELATED: Here Are The Horrifying Details Of The Charleston Shooting)