Share story

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Protesters with the Poor People’s Campaign returned Tuesday for their third straight week of protests at South Carolina’s Statehouse, but this time no one was arrested

The protesters called for a “moral revival” of veteran affairs and gun control as they gathered on the first floor of the Statehouse.

Roberta Gory McKelvin of Spartanburg said gun violence forever changed her life after her 21-year-old son was shot and killed in 2013 on their front porch. McKelvin said she became active in organizations pushing for gun reform to keep her son’s voice alive.

“There is a gun problem in the state of South Carolina,” McKelvin said. “I will stand for him.”

Two-time Iraq veteran Ryan Leach said his personal experience serving in the Army and watching his Air Force veteran mother struggle to pay medical bills incurred due to her military service triggered his involvement with the campaign.

“It was a great epiphany for me in my military service when I realized all of our struggles are interconnected,” Leach said. “I don’t think that my service puts me at any sort of echelon above anyone else. None of us are free until all of us are free.”

Campaign co-founder the Rev. William Barber said basic constitutional rights are being violated and his mission is to take back the power from lawmakers and place it in the hands of the people.

“We have a deep running problem, running from the state capitol all the way up to the president,” Barber said. “We won’t be silent anymore about these realities.”

Barber is president and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and lives in neighboring North Carolina. He said South Carolina is one of many states where legislators won’t change things until they feel like they have no choice.

“South Carolina only took the confederate flag down after African-Americans were shot to death in a church,” Barber said by phone before the North Carolina rally. “They wouldn’t take it down any other way and that’s shameful.”