Another horror has been perpetrated in the US, this time by a 21-year-old white racist supremacist in Charleston, South Carolina. Dylann Roof shot and killed nine members of a black church while they were studying the bible in the evening on June 17. The police have described the killings a hate crime and the state governor has called for the death penalty for the accused.
Washington DC, Crescent-online
Friday June 19, 2015, 17:27 DST
Even by America’s murderous standards, the mass killing of nine blacks during bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina has sent shockwaves throughout the country.
On June 17, a 21-year-old white racist, Dylann Roof entered the church at 20:17 EDT while the group was involved in bible study. The white racist, according to witnesses spent about 50 minutes inside with the group before opening fire killing nine people including the 41-year-old pastor Clementa Pinckney who is also a member of the South Carolina Senate. Six women and three men were killed and three others sustained various injuries but survived.
The white assailant escaped the scene of the crime but was arrested the following day (June 18) when his car was stopped in Shelby, North Carolina, some 400 km north-west of Charleston. For once, the police described the suspect as not only as “highly dangerous” but also said they had “no doubt” the shooting was a hate crime. The 21-year-old assailant is from the town of Eastover, 150 km north-west of Charleston.
He had been arrested earlier, according to the state law enforcement division. On March 1, 2015, he was arrested for drug possession and again on April 26 on a trespassing charge. Roof had received a gun for his 21st birthday in April. A photograph from his Facebook page shows him wearing a jacket with the historical flags of apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) on it.
At his court appearance today (Friday June 19), Roof admitted to shooting the African-Americans and said he wanted to start a race war in America. At an emotional press conference, State Governor Nikki Haley said today that the state would be seeking the death penalty if Roof is found guilty.
Following the shooting and Roof’s arrest, President Barack Obama said he had made far too many announcements about victims of gun violence. He once again called for tougher gun control laws saying the US had the highest rate of gun murders among all industrialized countries. He lamented the fact that Congress had blocked his repeated attempts to get effective legislation.
According to the most recent FBI statistics, there were a total of 3,407 hate crimes motivated by race in 2013. Of these, the overwhelming majority—2,263—were against African-Americans, compared to 728 against whites. There were also 146 victims belonging to American Indians or Alaska Natives while 158 were Asian (Chinese origin).
The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church has one of the largest black congregations south of Baltimore and a history entwined with that of race relations and the civil rights struggle in the US. It was established in 1816 but white landowners set it on fire in 1822 after one of its founders, Denmark Veysey, tried to organise a slave revolt.
The church also has link to civil rights leader Martin Luther King who addressed the church in 1962 while in 1969 his wife, Coretta Scott King, led a 1,500-person march in support of striking hospital workers to the church where they faced bayonet-wielding members of the South Carolina National Guard.