Protesters call for justice for slain Bowie State student

NAACP Howard County Branch held a rally Sunday near the Mall in Columbia to call for justice for slain Bowie State University student Richard W. Collins III.
NAACP Howard County Branch held a rally Sunday near the Mall in Columbia to call for justice for slain Bowie State University student Richard W. Collins III.(Sarah Gantz / Baltimore Sun)

Dozens of protesters braved rain and wind in Columbia Sunday to call for justice for slain Bowie State University student Richard W. Collins III.

Collins, a 23-year-old business administration student commissioned this month as a second lieutenant in the Army, was stabbed to death at the University of Maryland, College Park on May 20 in an attack authorities are investigating as a potential hate crime.


Sean Christopher Urbanski, a 22-year-old University of Maryland student from Severna Park, has been charged with first- and second-degree murder. He is being held without bail.

The rally attracted more than 50 people near the entrance to the Mall in Columbia. It was organized by the NAACP's Howard County branch to draw attention to Collins' death, chapter President Willie Flowers said.

"The goal is to, of course, demand it be treated as a hate crime, but also to be consistent in spreading and sharing love in the community," he said. "Whatever the weapon is, if the heart is right it won't happen in the first place."

Collins was black. Urbanski is white. Authorities say Urbanski was a member of the white supremacist Facebook group "Alt-Reich Nation," which contained racist posts.

Urbanski's lawyer, William C. Brennan, could not be reached for comment Sunday evening.

At a court hearing two days after the killing, Brennan said Urbanski did not have a criminal record and asked that he be allowed to live at home with a GPS monitor and receive alcohol abuse treatment while his case goes forward. The judge declined.

Protesters in rain jackets and boots huddled under umbrellas and held signs that read "Black Lives Matter," "Honk if you love justice" and "WAKE UP."

Their chants of "L-O-V-E" and "Black Lives Matter" drew honks from cars moving through the busy intersection of Governor Warfield Parkway and Windstream Drive.


Attendees took turns using Flowers' megaphone to share thoughts or prayers or lead chants.

"I have three boys," said Renee Grant, 39, of Columbia. "If I'm not willing to step out there and demand accountability and justice, no one else is going to do that for my family."

Protesters' calls for justice echoed remarks by family members, university and Army leaders at a funeral service for Collins Friday.

"I think the biggest thing I want and I know the family wants is to learn to stop hating one another," said the Rev. Darryl L. Godlock, pastor of Calvert County Baptist Church, who has been serving as a spokesman for the family. "Stop attacking one another and shedding innocent blood for no reason at all."

Collins was commissioned an officer in the Army days before his death; he was due to graduate from Bowie State days after. His cousins recalled him as a protective but fun-loving big brother figure. University leaders spoke of the positive example he set for other students.

At the rally Sunday, Howard County Councilman Calvin Ball said he was heartbroken by Collins' death.


"When we see so many forces trying to divide us, we need to stand united," Ball said. "We need to demonstrate that we love everyone in our community, and we can't do that without coming out, without ensuring that people see our faces."

Grant said rallies and protests can serve as a catalyst for community organizing.

"Something happens like the murder of 2nd Lt. Richard Collins and people feel moved, but they don't know what to do. They come here," Grant said. "They come here and meet the community leaders, the people who are speaking what they felt but didn't know what to do with it."

Robin Slaw, the director of religious education at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia, said the NAACP asked her church to come out to support the rally.

"It's that simple," she said. "We were asked and we're here."

Slaw said it is important for people of all religions and races to support the rally's message of equality, peace and justice.

"One of our religious values is that every person has inherent dignity and worth," she said. "We're all people. We all need to be in this together."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.