After more than a year of fighting, the Southernside Environmental Justice Title VI case is coming to an amicable conclusion. The Title VI complaint filed by SCSJ in early 2013 stated that the South Carolina Department of Transportation violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by excluding residents of the Southernside neighborhood, an economically disadvantaged community of color, from the decision to demolish a pedestrian bridge that connected the community to the adjacent neighborhood. That Title VI complaint is now being voluntarily withdrawn due to a more collaborative relationship between the Southernside neighborhood and the South Carolina Department of Transportation.
“We were forced to resort to a Title VI complaint in 2013 because at that time the leadership at the South Carolina Department of Transportation would not respond to our concerns,” said state legislator Chandra Dillard. “Now that they are under new leadership that is willing to come to the table, we are no longer obliged to take such a confrontational approach,” continued Dillard.
The Hampton Avenue Bridge allowed easier access to a grocery store and pharmacy, among many other benefits. While the Hampton Avenue Bridge was allegedly demolished due to age and disrepair, SCSJ found that old bridges that served more affluent communities were not demolished, and that its demolition had a disparate negative impact on the underserved residents of color in the neighborhood—a protected group under Title VI. “South Carolina Department of Transportation has taken positive steps in supporting our efforts to find a solution, and we believe they will continue to take the further necessary steps, especially in light of our withdrawal of the complaint, signaling that we are teammates rather than adversaries,” said Dillard.
“The Southern Coalition for Social Justice believes in finding the best solution for each community we represent,” said staff attorney Allison Riggs. “We are pleased that the Southernside neighborhood feels that they can resolve this matter amicably. By working directly with the South Carolina Department of Transportation and other key players, we can achieve a more collaborative and efficient resolution than we might through lengthy administrative action. This is a win for our clients.”
To learn more about SCSJ’s involvement in this case, read our blog post here.