Mar. 4—”We would like solutions. We would like justice. We would like it now.”
These had been the phrases of Latasha Williams as she led a bunch of greater than 100 in a peaceable protest via the streets of downtown Beckley.
Williams stated the protest was additionally a march for justice in honor of her fiancée, Quantez Burks, who died on the Southern Regional Jail (SRJ) in Raleigh County in 2022.
“Anyone’s obtained to be held accountable for what they’ve achieved,” Williams stated. “(Quantez) is not only a bit of trash. He is not gonna be swept underneath the rug.”
Burks is only one of roughly a dozen inmates who died on the Southern Regional Jail in 2022. In 2018, there was one loss of life at SRJ.
This spike in deaths in addition to studies that inmates at SRJ have been denied meals, water and correct medical remedy has sparked a quantity of investigations in addition to a federal class motion lawsuit.
Up to now, state businesses have denied these allegations citing an inside investigation carried out final 12 months.
“Ultimately they are going to hear,” stated Kimberly Burks, the mom of Quantez, refereeing to West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and different state officers.
“It is reached them. They simply not listenin’. And when it will get to the purpose that they do not haven’t any alternative however to hear and to do one thing, we’ll know as a result of they are going to change their tune.
Williams and Kimberly Burks had been additionally joined Saturday by the household of Alvis Shrewsbury, one other inmate who died at Southern Regional Jail final 12 months.
“We have got to stay collectively out right here,” stated Justine Shrewsbury, Alvis’ accomplice of greater than 30 years. “We have got to be their voice as a result of no person else goes to be.”
Alvis Shrewsbury died on Sept. 17, 2022 after spending 19 days at SRJ.
Within the lead as much as this march, members from the Burks and Shrewsbury households took half in a digital press convention, hosted by the Poor Individuals’s Marketing campaign, the place they shared the tales of how each males died.
Kimberly Burks stated Saturday that she plans to proceed to share her son’s story and be his voice.
“My son, Quantez Burks, was murdered on March 1, (2022) on the hand of the (correctional officers) on the Southern Regional Jail. . . He was there on a misdemeanor cost for about 14 to 24 hours,” Kimberly Burks stated. “It has been a 12 months and we nonetheless have not acquired any solutions. We’re nonetheless looking for justice. And we have not had any acknowledgement . . . for the state, from the COs, from (Gov.) Jim Justice, from the mayor to the police division of what occurred to him.”
Based on each households, the state places of work that investigated the trigger of loss of life for Burks and Shrewsbury determined they died of pure causes. Nonetheless, impartial autopsies, paid for by the households, paint a special story.
Within the case of Burks, Kimberly Burks, stated a non-public post-mortem decided that Quantez died of a coronary heart assault after sustaining blunt power trauma to his physique and fractured bones in his forearm and wrist together with different accidents.
Shrewsbury’s household stated he died of gastrointestinal bleeding which neither the state nor personal post-mortem may clarify.
Kimberly Burks stated she and Williams had been planning the march for roughly two months as a option to mark the one-year anniversary of Quantez’s loss of life.
Saturday’s march started at Quantez Burks former residence off West Neville Avenue in Beckley, which is only some blocks from downtown. That is additionally the place Quantez Burks was initially arrested on Feb. 28, 2022, on prices of wanton endangerment and obstructing an officer.
Earlier than starting the march towards downtown, Rev. Walter Leach of St. Paul Baptist Temple led the group in a second of prayer.
They then made their approach down Neville Avenue and into downtown Beckley whereas chatting the names of Quantez Burks and Alvis Shrewsbury and holding indicators the learn “#JusticeforQuan” “Everyone’s obtained a proper to reside” and “We is not going to be silent anymore.”
The marchers then made an impromptu cease in entrance of the Beckley Police station on 1st Avenue the place they chanted, “No justice, no peace. Prosecute the police.” In addition they repeated the names of Quantez Burks and Alvis Shrewsbury repeatedly with chants that begin with “Say his identify.”
After leaving the police station, they marched down Prince Avenue earlier than turning left onto Robert C Byrd Drive the place they lined the sidewalk for greater than an hour holding indicators and chanting for justice.
Williams stated she was grateful so many had been there to peacefully assist their trigger.
“Everyone blowing horns and all the things, all people’s yelling. We obtained youngsters out right here. We obtained lots of assist, so I hope this helps. I hope this helps,” Williams stated.
Supporters of Quantez Burks and Alvis Shrewsbury are additionally hoping the march will assist them acquire nationwide consideration as they name for an impartial federal investigation into SRJ.
Stewart Acuff, one of the chairs for the West Virginia Poor Individuals’s Marketing campaign, stated that is one of the explanations his group is getting concerned.
“We’re now circulating a petition that has about 5,000 signatures from individuals throughout West Virginia calling for a federal investigation,” Acuff stated. “It is a disaster. It is horrible. As one of the members of the family stated to me, animals in animal shelter get handled higher than human beings in a West Virginia jail.”
The petition is on the market on-line on the Motion Community web site at bit.ly/3kkqHCZ.
The Poor Individuals’s Marketing campaign can also be organizing an analogous march on the State Capitol Constructing in Charleston at 11 a.m. on March 10.
“We’re gonna demand that Governor Justice and Senator Manchin be a part of us in calling for a full federal investigation, not solely of the Southern Regional Jail however of all of the regional jails as a result of that is taking place all over the place within the state,” Acuff stated. “The jail closest to us, we reside within the jap panhandle, the jail in Martinsburg, (the Jap Regional Jail) leads the state in suicides. Meaning anyone’s not paying consideration or the circumstances forcing individuals to harm themselves.”
The Register-Herald reached out to Manchin’s workplace final week following the Poor Individuals’s Marketing campaign’s digital press convention to inquire whether or not he was conscious of the scenario.
A spokesperson together with his workplace stated, “Senator Manchin continues to watch the studies coming from the state-operated Southern Regional Jail in Raleigh County and the continuing investigation involving the circumstances there.”