The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

November 4, 2007

State protesters demand hate crimes charges in assault

CHARLESTON — Hundreds of people marched through the state capital Saturday to urge prosecutors to bring hate crime charges against six whites charged in the beating, torture and sexual assault of a 20-year-old black woman.

Authorities say the accused, three men and three women, held Megan Williams captive for days at a rural trailer — sexually assaulting her, beating her and forcing her to eat human and animal feces. She was discovered Sept. 8 after Logan County Sheriff’s Deputies received an anonymous tip.

Police stopped traffic in downtown Charleston, as demonstrators held signs calling for the suspects to be charged with hate crimes. African drumbeats punctuated the footsteps of marchers along a 2-mile route that passed a traditionally black neighborhood.

“This is a beautiful sight coming down our streets,” Charleston resident Lisa Harmon said as she cheered the marchers from a sidewalk. “A beautiful sight.”

Many shopkeepers and residents openly supported the march, clapping or raising their fists in unity.

Mary Booker, 52, of Charleston, said there is racism in her home state and she wants to see hate crimes taken seriously in the Williams case.

“Justice is all we are asking for, no special treatment,” Booker said. “They need to be charged with everything they have done, the hate crime and the rape and the battery. All of it.”

Before the march, a rally was held on the steps of the state Capitol building.

“Hate crimes are out of control in America,” Malik Shabazz, a legal adviser to Williams and her family and a founder of Black Lawyers for Justice, told the crowd. “Nooses are being hung and our women are being raped by white mobs. What happened to Megan Williams was a hate crime and we want this prosecuted as a hate crime.”

Shabazz pointed to statements from suspect Frankie Brewster and her son, Bobby Brewster, that racial epithets were used every time Williams was stabbed.

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