COLUMBIA — The Columbia branch of the NAACP held a candlelight vigil Monday night to express its concern again that justice hasn't been served in the May shooting death of Brandon Coleman.
About 50 people gathered at St. Luke United Methodist Church to pray, sing hymns and listen to speeches urging Boone County Chief Prosecutor Dan Knight to change his recent decision not to prosecute Coleman's shooter.
"We're hoping to get the prosecuting attorney to change his decision," said Phillip Jackson, a friend of the Coleman family. "We want Brandon Coleman's death to be looked into and not dismissed."
On Oct. 23, Knight announced his decision not to press charges against Dustin Deacon, who killed Coleman on May 19. Deacon was legally justified in shooting Coleman under state self-defense laws, Knight said. The decision infuriated some members of the local NAACP chapter.
The day of Knight's announcement, about 18 people gathered at the corner of Providence Road and Broadway to protest what they considered an unjust decision that showed the persistence of racism in Columbia.
Since then, local NAACP chapter president Mary Ratliff has been sending emails and handing out fliers at church and throughout the community to get the word out about Monday night's vigil.
Ratliff started the vigil with a speech, warning people of the long struggle ahead of them.
"We are going to be rallying until we get justice," Ratliff said. "This will be a long struggle, but sometimes nothing gets accomplished without a struggle."
Several signs were spread around the room, leaning against the walls. One of them had the question, "Are hate crimes accepted in Columbia?" written in bold marker.
"Another piece of me died last Wednesday when I learned what the decision was," Winona Coleman-Broadus, Coleman's mother, said in a speech. "Our Boone County prosecuting attorney looked me straight in the eye and told me my son was at fault, not the shooter."
Others in the room nodded their heads and voiced their agreement.
Four ministers also gave speeches, interwoven with prayer.
"There's a stain of blood on our city that has to be addressed," said the Rev. Karl Thomas, pastor of Second Baptist Church. "(Coleman's) body may be gone, but the presence and power of the blood still speaks."
The Rev. Caroles Taylor urged the attendees to express themselves by voting.
"We need people in office that will uphold the values of justice, and if Dan Knight won't do it, then he's out," Taylor said.
After the last speech, the attendees filed out the doors and formed a circle in front of the church. Holding candles, they sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and repeated their vow to seek justice for Coleman and the rest of the black community.
Many of them approached Coleman-Broadus and hugged her, offering words of encouragement before leaving.
Ratliff said she will meet with Coleman's family again soon to decide when to hold the next rally.
Supervising editor is Richard Webner.