Posted Nov. 5, 2007 – Despite last-minute controversy over the chief organizer of a hate-crimes march in West Virginia, hundreds of people turned out at the state Capitol Saturday hoping to convince prosecutors to include hate-crime charges to the list of offenses against six Whites accused of kidnapping, raping and torturing a 20-year-old Black woman two months ago.
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The march, called by Malik Shabazz, the woman’s legal adviser and founder of Black Lawyers for Justice, was also designed to draw attention to what many say is a rising tide of racism in the United States.
"Hate crimes are out of control in America," Shabazz told the crowd. "Nooses are being hung and our women are being raped… . What happened to Megan Williams was a hate crime and we want this prosecuted as a hate crime."
Days before the march kicked off, the NAACP and an alliance of Black ministers in West Virginia announced that they would not be supporting the march. Some quietly suggested that Shabazz did not have the clout or civil rights pedigree to pull off such a weighty task, while others contended that the gathering might indirectly undermine the prosecutor’s case.
Brian Abraham, the Logan County prosecutor, who has not filed hate-crime charges, has said that might be difficult because the victim, Megan Williams, reported a “prior relationship” with one of the defendants. Williams has said she met a White male who invited her to a house party. Abraham has also said that kidnapping alone can carry a penalty of up to life in prison, while hate crimes in the state can draw up to a 10-year sentence only.
All six defendants are looking at kidnapping and sexual assault charges. They are accused of luring Megan Williams to a ramshackle shed in rural West Virginia, where they kept her hostage for a week. During her captivity, prosecutors say, she was beaten, scalded, raped, stabbed with knives and forced to eat the feces of rats, dogs and humans.
“This is what we do to niggers who come down here,” they allegedly told her throughout the ordeal. When police arrived on the scene after receiving an anonymous tip, one of the accused, who was sitting on the front porch, told officers that no one was home. Moments later, Williams, who had broken her bonds, limped to the front door with her arms outstretched.
“Help me,” she gasped.
Abraham urged Williams and her family not to talk about the case or attend the rally. Williams attended the rally sporting a T-shirt that read "Protect the Black Woman."
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