By Dante Strobino
In the biggest expression of anti-racist outrage since the Sept. 20 Jena 6 rally, nearly a thousand people from all over the country gathered in Charleston, W.Va., the state capital, on Nov. 3 to support Megan Williams, a 20-year-old Black woman who survived a vicious, racist gang raping, torture and week-long kidnapping.
Megan Williams, victim of racist torture
and abuse, stands strong at rally between
Malik Shabazz of Black Lawyers for Justice
and her mother, Carmen Williams.
Photo: Casandra Rice
The marchers were demanding U.S. Attorney Charles Miller and Logan County Prosecutor Brian Abraham add hate-crime charges to the sexual assault and kidnapping charges against three white men and three white women from the county.
The march was organized by the West Virginia chapter of Black Lawyers for Justice and was endorsed by hundreds of Black organizations from across the country, including the Millions More Movement, National Action Network, The Ordinary People Society (TOPS), Peoples Organization for Progress, New Black Panther Party, Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault, Southern Christian Leadership Council, ex-Congressmember Cynthia McKinney and many others.
In a press release for the event, the organizers were very clear on the connection that this case has with other racist attacks, including rampant police killings and brutality all over the U.S. Besides the Jena 6 case in Louisiana, the press release raised cases involving noose hangings at the University of Maryland, College Park; in Pittsburgh targeting Black workers; in Long Island this past October; and in public schools all over North Carolina.
On Oct. 3 white students at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., reportedly held a Black student hostage for over an hour and repeatedly wrote “KKK” all over his body with markers.
Seen in this national context of racist attacks, the gruesome details of the Williams incident can hardly be imagined outside the legal framework of a “hate crime.”
Prosecutors said, “Every time they stabbed her, they called her ‘n——r.” Carmen Williams told the Charleston Gazette regarding her daughter’s ordeal, “She wakes up in the middle of the night screaming, ‘Mommy.’ What’s really, really bad is, we don’t know everything they did to her. She is crying all the time.”
The suspects took turns beating, stabbing, choking and sexually abusing Williams, while continually threatening her with death, according to criminal complaints.
Many marchers not only made the connection between this case and other racist attacks, they also raised questions about the national scenario of women’s oppression. In many rape cases, the survivors are so deeply traumatized that they never report the incident or come forward in public.
Megan Williams, however, even after her lawyers advised her and her family not to attend the march, proudly marched and rallied with her supporters. It was a stunning act of strength.
Given that only 3 percent of West Virginia residents are Black, this militant crowd was a sight for sore eyes. Marchers chanting “Black power!” and “Justice now!” proceeded down Kanawha Boulevard on their way to the Capitol building.
One marcher, Cassandra Rice, a student at Fairmont University in West Virginia, told Workers World, “As a white member of the West Virginia population, I had an obligation to be here to speak out against this type of hatred. [We have] to recognize everyday hatred that goes on in West Virginia that manifests in bigger events like what happened to Megan Williams. Everyday name-calling builds up to big events such as this.”
More and more movements across the country are springing up to respond to these attacks. The people united will never be defeated!
Strobino is a member of the Raleigh chapter of the youth group FIST (Fight Imperialism-Stand Together). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.