Georgia Avenue in North Augusta was quiet at 5 p.m., with just under a mile of the street closed down and lined with police officers. Then chanting of protestors broke that silence – “take it down,” “Black lives matter,” and the names of Black people who have been killed by law enforcement were called out by the protestors.
Hundreds of folks young and old marched as part of a Black Lives Matter protest from the North Augusta Municipal Building to Calhoun Park where the Meriwether Monument is located. The protest was organized by Brandy Mitchell and Unify North Augusta.
“Everything went well today,” Mitchell said following the event. "We had a very peaceful protest. As you can see, ain’t nothing but love and harmony out here. I believe that North Augusta was able to voice themselves and we really had just a very nice, strong show of unity out here. We had Black, white, Puerto Rican, Asian – just about everybody that you could think of out here today to stand up for racial inequality in America, so it was fantastic.”
North Augusta resident Jennie Westbrook was there with her family. “We just wanted to be a part of supporting our community, unifying our community, supporting our black friends,” she said, referring to why the family attended.
“Right now it’s important because you know, everybody’s getting sick, and it doesn’t matter what color you are, you’re all the same,” said her daughter Abby Westbrook.
The “take it down” chants heard during the march were referring to the Meriwether Monument, which memorializes the one white man who died in the 1876 Hamburg Massacre, a clash between white people and Black people that killed one white man and seven Black men.
The monument’s inscription uses racially divisive language to memorialize Thomas McKie Meriwether, the one white man.
Seven black men were also killed in the massacre: Allen Attaway, Jim Cook, Albert Myniart, Nelder Parker, Moses Parks, David Phillips and Hampton Stephens, according to an S.C. Historical Marker in North Augusta located about a mile away from the Meriwether Monument.
Brittany Meriwether Williamson, a member of the Meriwether family, attended the event with her family.
“It’s important to me because I want to see the monument come down. The inscription on it is horrific. It’s an inaccurate representation of what happened in Hamburg at that massacre,” she said. “The monument needs to come down.”
She said she hopes the event puts pressure on North Augusta City Council to fight to remove the monument.
Kenton Makin, the host of Makin' A Difference podcast, was one of the speakers at the event.
“No. 1 the most important reason we’re out is here is because Black lives matter. Black men matter, Black women matter, Black children matter,” Makin said.
The second reason, he said, “is for George Floyd, for Breonna Taylor, for Ahmaud Arbery, for Ernest Satterwhite."
"Let me say that again, for Ernest Satterwhite,” Makin said.
In 2014, Satterwhite was shot and killed by North Augusta Department of Public Safety officer Justin Craven following a police chase that began in North Augusta and ended in Edgefield County.
Satterwhite’s granddaughter Demetrius Satterwhite spoke at the event, recounting the story of his death and proclaiming Black lives matter.
Makin also addressed the monument. In September 2017, he asked North Augusta City Council to do something about the monument.
“This monument is coming down. I don’t know what’s wrong with the city officials of North Augusta. In 2017 they did the very least. I said ‘Y’all need to take it down or at the very least denounce the monument.’ They did the very least,” Makin said.
He asked what it would take to remove the monument.
North Augusta City Council has denounced the wording on the monument and formed a Calhoun Park committee which is looking at what can be done in the park. A resolution passed by the council does state that the monument will not be removed or altered.
Pastor Brandon Dotson of Carey Hill Baptist Church also addressed the crowd and said it was important for him to attend the event because it impacts his community and his family.
“As a pastor of a community, as a father and a husband, I have a responsibility to speak up for my generation, the next generation, and to be grateful for the sacrifices that were made by generations before me,” Dotson said, adding that the turnout at the protest was "amazing."
“I can’t stress how much love and unity, excitement was in the area. You saw Black, white, Hispanic coming together for the same human cause. Just equity and justice. If that’s not beautiful, I don’t know what is,” Dotson said.
Mitchell said there are future plans to have discussions with North Augusta Department of Public Safety Chief John Thomas, and that Unify North Augusta will be holding a town hall series and doing service projects.
Thomas attended the event, along with Sheriff Mike Hunt and a few dozen police officers on duty. Thomas said the event went smoothly.