When news came back in June that a black South Carolina man was shot to death by a white co-worker and his corpse was dragged 11 miles behind a truck, it recalled the bloody lynchings of the old Jim Crow South (not to mention the 1998 dragging murder of Texan James Byrd). Yesterday, more than 100 people marched on the courthouse in Newberry, S.C., to demand that Anthony Hill's death be considered a hate crime. It might seem incredible that there is any question whether racism played a role in Hill's death, given the historic use of death by dragging in Southern lynchings, but South Carolina has no hate-crimes statute, and it's up to the U.S. Department of Justice to decide whether it is a hate crime. Meanwhile, it seems to many that the wheels of justice are rolling far too slowly.
Police have Collins in custody, having arrested him a few hours after the incident.
That's not enough, said Malik Zulu Shabazz, president of the New Black Panther Party, the primary speaker at Saturday's event. He claimed during Saturday's rally that Collins did not act alone and implied he should be put to death for the crime.
Instead, Shabazz said, law enforcement is sitting on its hands in an obvious hate crime.
"This case is an outrage. Gregory Collins has not even been indicted. That's right. Over 40 days after (the) dragging and murder," Shabazz yelled to the crowd through a megaphone on the court house steps. "When a man is dragged behind a pickup truck, that is a modern day lynching."
But is it a hate crime, fueled by racial hatred?
Those interviewed in the crowd disagreed.
Some said the brutal nature of the crime is an undeniable echo of the South's racially intolerant past when black men were lynched for failing to obey white men's rules.
Others suspect that this was a crime of passion, the details of which have yet to be released to the public. Rumors swirl that Collins and Hill were at odds over a woman.