Reflections on Terror at Emanuel AME Church

Six weeks before falling victim himself to gun violence, the pastor of Emanuel A.M.E. Church made remarks on the Senate floor on May 9, 2015 regarding the April 2015 shooting of Walter Scott by a police officer, together with South Carolina state legislator Clementa C. Pinckey:

On Wednesday, the racist gunman Dylann Roof opened fire at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church’s weekly bible study killing AME’s pastor South Carolina State Senator Clementa C. Pinckney along with eight congregants attending the bible study.

TPM:Cafe has published a history of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, its place in the history of Charleston, the anti-slavery movement, and the creation of what came to be known as the Citadel, the crown jewel of Southern militarism, which was born from white fears of slave rebellion triggered by this church.

Presidential Candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) denouncing the shooting as terrorism.

Nine of our fellow Americans were murdered while praying in a historic church because of the color of their skin. This senseless violence fills me with outrage, disgust, and a deep, deep sadness.

This hateful killing is a horrific reminder that, while we have made important progress in civil rights for all of our people, we are far from eradicating racism.

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is one that has been attacked, burned, and rebuilt throughout its 200-year history. While their community mourns now, they will rebuild, and they will emerge stronger than before.

Cartoon courtesy of Mike Stanfill.

Cartoon courtesy of Mike Stanfill.

Jelani Cobb connects the violence in Charleston with other horrors our country is facing:

We have, quite likely, found at 110 Calhoun Street in Charleston, South Carolina, the place where Columbine, Aurora, and Newtown cross with Baltimore, Ferguson, and Sanford. We periodically mourn the deaths of a group of Americans who die at the hands of another armed American. We periodically witness racial injustices that inspire anger in the streets. And sometimes we witness both. This is, quite simply, how we now live.

However, the New York Times noted an odd lack of calls from liberal lawmakers from more gun legislation:

Lawmakers, weary from the emotional fight and ultimate failure to get a bill to enhance background checks for gun sales off the Senate floor two years ago, seem resigned to the view that if 20 small children killed at a school cannot move Congress, then nine black men and women shot dead by a white man during Bible study will not, either.

A confederate battle flag flies over the South Carolina State House. Ironically, it is the one flag which is not flying at half-mast today. How long will that flag continue to fly there? Clearly, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was being naive when she claimed "“But we really kind of fixed all that [racism] when you elected the first Indian-American female governor."

A confederate battle flag flies over the South Carolina State House.

The Confederate Battle Flag

A confederate battle flag flies over the South Carolina State House. Ironically, that is the one flag which is not flying at half-mast today.

How long will that flag continue to fly there?

Clearly, Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) was being naive when she claimed during a debate that the flag didn’t represent an “image problem” because she never had “one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate [battle] flag,” adding that “we really kind of fixed all that [racism] when you elected the first Indian-American female governor.” Today, Governor Haley told ABC News that “In South Carolina, the governor does not have legal authority to alter the flag. Only the General Assembly can do that.”

Several Jewish and local organizations commented on the event:

Remarks from Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice:

As fellow people of faith, we cannot imagine the horror that the members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church have had to endure as this evil act ripped through their congregation during a moment of peace and love. All the members of Bend the Arc are sending our prayers and deepest condolences to the congregants of Emanuel AME Church and the people of Charleston. We honor the legacy of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a fierce advocate for a justice and equality. And we join the nationwide call for a swift investigation that will bring the perpetrator of this abhorrent hate crime to justice. — Stosh Cotler

Remarks from CeaseFirePA: Taking a Stand Against Gun Violence:

Jonathan A. Neufeld ‏@jneuf: Accentuating the irrationality of the Charleston news, the paper puts an ad for a gun shop on the front page.  "$30 gets you everything."

Jonathan A. Neufeld
‏@jneuf: Accentuating the irrationality of the Charleston news, the paper puts an ad for a gun shop on the front page. “$30 gets you everything.”

We are saddened and horrified at the shooting last night at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. This heinous crime targeted victims because of their race and was perpetrated against those who came together in a house of worship. No one should be afraid to go to church or to gather in their communities.

Easy access to firearms empowers those who are driven by hate and fear. We work together every day to keep our communities safer and to empower those who are motivated by hope, love and dreams of peace. We stand with our brothers and sisters in Charleston, and pledge to honor the victims and survivors by continuing the fight to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

Remarks from Agudath Israel of America:

The deaths of nine people at the hand of a gunman at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is not only a personal tragedy for the relatives and friends of those who were killed, but yet another in the long list of murderous acts born of religious or racial hatred.

Agudath Israel of America extends its condolences to the families of the worshippers killed, and condemns all such evil acts and the attitudes that lead to them.

Ours is a community that has a long history of having suffered violence against worshippers, most recently in the case of the murderous terrorist attack on the Har Nof, Israel synagogue last November. That makes us all the more sensitive to the pain that was caused in Charleston today.

Remarks from the Shawn Evenhaim, Chairman of the Israel-American Council

Israeli Americans across the country are heartbroken and horrified at the mass killings in Charleston. This despicable act struck especially deeply because it violated a house of peace and worship. We stand with the Charleston community, the people of South Carolina and all Americans in offering our deepest condolences and prayers and condemn such senseless acts of violence.

The United States has one of the highest homicide rates among the world's developed countries. However, for African-Americans the situation is far graver.

The United States has one of the highest homicide rates among the world’s developed countries. However, for African-Americans the situation is far graver.

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