Protesters march to courthouse, prepare for public viewing

Published: Sep. 26, 2014 at 10:04 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2014 at 8:37 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Family and friends are preparing to say their final farewells at a public viewing for Charles Smith, the man killed in an officer-involved shooting on Augusta Avenue.

Community members held a march throughout downtown Savannah on Friday to protest the fatal shooting.

They gathered at Augusta Avenue just after 11 a.m., chanting "No justice, no peace." A group of nearly 50 adults and children marched to the Chatham County Courthouse under police escort.

It has been just over one week since police arrested Smith on outstanding warrants. He was then shot and killed by a Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police officer after he kicked out the back window of the squad car. Police said they found a gun under his body.

Protests have taken place every day since the incident.

"When something negative happens in a community and someone loses a life and we aren't sure why, it is always a problem," said Paul Andrew Debnum. "Imagine if you lose a family member and he is unarmed and he is dead. We are here marching on his behalf and he is never going to come back, and we want to prevent this from happening again."

Some protesters said they will continue to boycott a local convenience store for the way it handled the release of surveillance video showing Smith's arrest.

Their message was clear: they want justice for Smith and his family.

Some community members marched with signs and arms held high. At the end of the march, some community leaders came forward to address the accusations made by County Commissioner Yusuf Shabazz.

In the wake of the city releasing the arrest video from the convenience store's cameras, Shabazz accused the store owner of tipping off police that Smith was in the store. Earlier in the week Mayor edna Jackson said that was not the case and that the owner just provided the video.

Protesters said that is now why they are boycotting the store, and they feel the focus is getting shifted away from their goal of getting justice for Smith.

WTOC reached out to Commissioner Shabazz and the convenience store owner, but neither agreed to speak.

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