Large Protest In Charleston Postponed, Smaller Crowds Still Gather

Jun 7, 2020

A protest that had been planned Sunday at the West Virginia Capitol was postponed by organizers due to safety concerns following threats, according to event organizers.

The event was expected to attract thousands of people, protesting police brutality against African Americans. A small crowd still gathered at the capitol grounds Sunday afternoon for a peaceful event.

On Charleston’s West Side, another scheduled demonstration went ahead as scheduled Sunday. The peaceful protest was a part of an ongoing series of demonstrations that have taken place each day for the past week. Nineteen-year-old Caylynn Wills is one of the organizers.

“Well honestly, I’ve always been passionate about Black Lives Matter," she said. "I feel like I was about 12 when Trayvon Martin died, but I was so young I couldn’t even do anything. I couldn’t ever be heard.”

But the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, motivated Wills and her brother to organize a protest on the West Side. She said they choose the the West Side because it is the heart of the African American community in Charleston.

The protests she’s helped organize have continued to gain momentum each day. She said threats against protestors are concerning, but they haven’t stopped people from gathering.

"Ever since the second day when a lot of people started coming out, we had threats every single day," she said. "People saying, ‘we’re gonna hit you with our car.’ ‘Oh, if we see you, we’re gonna shoot you,’ saying things like that."

But on Sunday the mood at the protest on Charleston’s West Side was celebratory, with music playing. Families with small children were in attendance. A continuous stream of people in cars honked as they drove by, to show their support of racial equality.

Update June 8, 8:30 p.m.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting reached out to law enforcement and organizers of the "I Can't Breathe" event that was postponed, asking for more information on the reasons the event on June 7 was canceled. At this time, organizers say they are not able to provide more specifics, and the Charleston Police Chief Hunt said in an emailed statement on June 8 that explained that law enforcement were invited to a meeting by event organizers on Friday, June 5. "Some of the concerns that were discussed are law enforcement sensitive and cannot be shared. These potential issues, the lack of organization and the open nature of the protest location were discussed." After that meeting, said Hunt, the organizers decided to postpone the event after they considered the safety concerns "and saw the need for a more unified plan."