In a march reminiscent of civil rights gatherings of a decade ago, hundreds of demonstrators walked to the statehouse steps here, protesting the death of a black youth who they contend was the victim of a racially motivated murder.
The march, while began with 200 protesters leaving Chester County 55 miles away Friday, had swelled to about 2,000, mostly young blacks, by the time it reached the state capital. The marchers sang protest songs and called for freedom and justice as they spoke of the death of 18-year-old Mickey McClinton, whose body was discovered beside a rural road last May.
The demonstrators demanded that Gov. Dick Riley push for a further investigation into McClinton's death and the deaths of other blacks in years past. They also want the governor to look into the composition of Chester County's council and the area's housing and banking practices.
Shortly after midnight last May 11, some factory workers discovered the body of the black farmhand by the side of a curve on a rural road.
Ralph abernathy, former head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and other civil rights leaders say McClinton was "lynched," while law enforcement officials say he was the victum of a hit-and-run accident.
"McClinton died because he dared date a white girl," says Golden Frinks, 59, a field secretary for the SCLC. Frinks contends McClinton was lured from his home and killed, and his body was dumped on this roadside. Some blacks say McClinton was castrated and his tongue cut out.
But according to autopsy photographs and the black funeral home director who prepared McClinton's body for burial, no multilation was evident.
"I'm sick, and tired of Mickey McClintons across South Carolina and across the South and throughout this nation, of the bigotry and mistreatment of their lives taken in this fashion and we're not going to take it any more," Abernathy told students at the predominantly black Benedict College in Columbia last week.
State government and law enforecement officials appeared to be trying to end the tense racial situation. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is conducting an investigationon the heels of one by ChesterCounty Sheriff Bobby Orr.
Riley had agreed earlier to order the exhumation of McClinton's body for a second autopsy to be conducted this week by the state pathologist at South Carolina Medical College. The SCLC also will choose a pathologist to observe the autopsy, and McClinton's family is to select a black physician to monitor the preceedings. A state official said the second autopsy was intended to "lay to rest" the rumors of mutilation.
In an hour and half meeting with Riley at the capital today, the blacks added a demand that Riley submit to the General Assembly a new election requirement that would set medical qualifications for coroner candidates.They also asked for public inquest into McClinton's death.
The governor told Frinks and others that he would repond to their demands in writing by Wednesday.
NAACP officials say they "support the family and any organization or group wanting to bring about justice in the death of Mickey McClinton."