CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The president and CEO of the NAACP spoke at a news conference in downtown Charleston Friday, two days after nine people were shot and killed at the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the south.
Friday's new conference featuring NAACP President and CEO Rev. Cornell William Brooks was held at noon at the Charleston Branch of the NAACP Office, located at 81 Columbus Street.
In a statement released Thursday, Brooks detailed his outrage over the fatal mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church, while offering prayers and condolences to the families of the nine victims.
"The NAACP was founded to fight against racial hatred, and we are outraged that 106 years later, we are faced today with another mass hate crime," Brooks said in a statement. "Our heartfelt prayers and soul-deep condolences go out to the families and community of the victims at Charleston's historic Emanuel AME Church."
On Friday, Brooks expressed the shock of the nation as a whole because it "took place in God's house," referencing Charleston as the "Holy City." He went on to say that the country we represent has been victimized by hate-mongers. He stated his uncle owned a barber shop nearby, and this tragedy hits close to home.
"This crime is a living, breathing contradiction of everything we stand for as Americans," Brooks said.
Brooks praised the community of Charleston, saying it has come together in a "moment of crisis," but pointed out that within the "climate of caring" there is an "atmosphere of hate." He addressed his deep concerns about racial conflicts in Charleston, calling the shooter a "young man led down the racist path."
According to Brooks, although the crime "happened in a minute," it was long in development.
A little bit of bigotry and vice is not acceptable, stated Brooks. He called the shooter's actions an act of "racial terrorism," and they "must be treated as such."
Brooks emphasized "We will not give in" to "purveyors of hate," and "we can rise up as a nation of love."
The presence of the Confederate flag was also an issue for Brooks, who said that it represents vice and bigotry. He encouraged people to write to companies doing business in South Carolina and ask them to speak to Governor Haley to have the Confederate flag taken down from the state Capitol. The removal of the flag is of greater importance than discussing whether or not it should currently be flying at half mast, Brooks claimed.