Lawmakers, leaders commemorate Charleston church shooting six years later
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Lawmakers and leaders are paying tribute Thursday to the nine parishioners of the downtown Charleston church who were slain six years ago Thursday.
The church’s pastor, State Sen. and the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, and eight parishioners died in the shooting. Dylann Roof was sentenced to death in the June 17, 2015 attack that came at the end of a Wednesday night Bible Study.
Roof, who is white, was welcomed into the historically Black church for the Bible study. Prosecutors said he opened fire during the final prayer.
U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, who represents South Carolina’s Sixth Congressional District, said Pinckney was a former intern in his office and that he knew the Rev. Daniel Simmons very well.
“I think it’s important for us not to forget them and not forget what made them, the Emanuel 9,” he said.
Clyburn said Roof said to the authorities that he studied that church and knew of its historical significance to Black people.
“And he committed a hate crime, you know, to start a civil war,” he said. “He wanted to start a race war, and denying that would not make that go away. Confronting that is how we get beyond it.”
Clyburn also said Congress would continue on their efforts to close the so-called Charleston Loophole, which allowed Roof to purchase the gun after the three-day waiting period despite the fact that the background check that should have prevented him from purchasing it had not been completed.
U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, who serves the Lowcountry in the First Congressional District, praised the community’s response to the killings.
“Six years ago, a racist gunman brutally murdered nine innocent people in Charleston. Our community came together in an incredible display of love, forgiveness, and peace,” she said.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who was in office at the time of the shooting, posted her thoughts on Twitter.
“Six years ago nine innocent lives were taken after showing love and kindness to a stranger,” she said. “They were the best of us and a reminder of who we should all strive to be.”
Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison, who ran unsuccessfully in November to defeat Sen. Lindsey Graham, also posted a tribute to Twitter.
“Six years ago, nine men and women lost their lives when a scion of hate attacked Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC,” he wrote. “These saints were only guilty of opening the doors of their church and their hearts to a stranger. I ask you to honor their memories, pray for their families.”
Interim University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides also posted on Twitter about the shooting.
“Today I reflect on the nine brave souls who brutally lost their lives at Mother Emanuel AME Church. I honor their memory and cherish their families and our Beloved Community,” he wrote. “Never forget. So much left to do.”
Bernice King, the CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and the youngest daughter of the Civil Rights icon, also posted to the platform.
“Never forget. Educate for change. Be for truth and love,” she said.
Plans are underway for a Emanuel 9 Memorial which will be constructed on the grounds of Mother Emanuel AME Church.
It will consist of a courtyard with two fellowship benches, a marble fountain with the names of the Emanuel 9, and a cross. The memorial will also include a survivor’s garden to pay tribute to the five survivors of the attack.
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