Lowcountry rally calls for end to 'stand your ground' laws

bheffernan@islandpacket.comJuly 20, 2013 

Many held signs.

At least one woman wore a hoodie.

But Mike Bilby, 67, honored Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen shot to death in 2012 by neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman, in a different way, wearing a hat that identified him as a wounded warrior.

"I'm a Purple Heart veteran, myself, and I know what it feels like to be shot," he said.

Bilby, a Lady's Island resident, said he served for six years in the U.S. Marine Corps and fought in the Vietnam War "for the freedom of our children so they could walk home ... without being killed."

Trayvon Martin, Bilby said, "was just an American kid going home."

Bilby joined about 65 people near the front lawn of Beaufort City Hall at noon Saturday -- a week after a jury found Zimmerman not guilty -- to protest the verdict and call for an end to "stand your ground" laws. The rally was organized by the Beaufort County Democratic Party. It was one of a number of similar rallies held across the country Saturday.

The Beaufort gathering also remembered an area man who was shot to death on Christmas Eve 2010 -- Carlos Olivera of Bluffton.

"Stand your ground laws are legal murder!! Remember Trayvon Martin & Carlos Olivera," read the neon-green posterboard Terry Gibson held overhead.

"Trayvon has been in the news constantly for months, but people seem to have forgotten about ... Carlos Olivera," Gibson said.

Olivera was shot six times by Preston Oates, a Bluffton tow truck driver, after a confrontation over an improperly parked minivan.

Lawyers for Oates, who was charged with manslaughter, have claimed that South Carolina's "Castle Doctrine" allowed him to use deadly force to protect himself. Olivera allegedly showed a gun he had tucked in his waistband during the argument.

The case is still awaiting trial.

Gibson calls it "yet another example of this disgraceful, horrible law that allows people to kill people and just walk around."

"These stand your ground laws have taken us back to the Wild West where everybody is going to have a gun and everybody who shoots somebody is going to say, 'I was threatened,' " she said.

Adrianne Kelly said she came to City Hall not just to protest the law, but to call attention to racial inequalities.

"If we don't stand up for justice for Trayvon Martin, it could be our son, our grandson, our husband, even our fathers," said Kelly.

"I have friends who have sons and grandsons, and I'm fearful for them," she said.

Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian

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