Courts & Crime

Protesters want hate crime designation for Newberry dragging death

NEWBERRY — Pumping fists in the air and hoisting signs that read, "Black Power" and "Justice for Anthony Hill," a hundred or so demonstrators marched Saturday from a Newberry neighborhood park to the Newberry County Courthouse, rallying for a new day in race relations in this small town in central South Carolina.

Some came because, they say, local police pull black motorists over without cause, question black youths whenever they're unsupervised and do not pursue crimes against blacks as vigorously as those against whites.

Others came because they believe the school system treats black students differently from white ones.

Still others came because of concerns over substandard conditions in the city's public housing.

But all agreed the area's racial tensions can no longer be ignored after a white man, Gregory Collins, was arrested in early June in the shooting death of his coworker Anthony Hill. Hill's corpse had been dragged behind a truck for 11 miles, police said.

"Anybody who says prejudice is gone, I'm sorry but they're wrong," said Marquesia Abney of Newberry who demonstrated Saturday. "People need to wake up. I hear a lot of people around here say, '(This crime) has nothing to do with me.' But if you live in this community, if you have kids, it does affect you. The message has to get out that people can't do things like this."

"It's time people wake up," added Abney's friend Mike Raiford of Newberry. "Wake up and realize we get treated very poorly in this community."

A group of local and national reporters worked the event while law enforcement officers from the city, county and state surrounded the peaceful event, some on foot, others in ATVs, on motorcycles or in vehicles.

The crowd, which included several demonstrators who came in from other states including Georgia and Texas, eventually swelled to several hundred at the courthouse to join in chants and prayers.

Police have Collins in custody, having arrested him a few hours after the incident.

That's not enough, said Malik Zulu Shabazz, president of the New Black Panther Party, the primary speaker at Saturday's event. He claimed during Saturday's rally that Collins did not act alone and implied he should be put to death for the crime.

Instead, Shabazz said, law enforcement is sitting on its hands in an obvious hate crime.

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