State’s Con­fed­er­ate flag de­cried as a ‘tool of hate’

NAACP de­mands the em­blem be re­moved from South Carolina state Capi­tol af­ter ‘act of racial ter­ror­ism.’

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Hai­ley Bran­son-Potts hai­ley.bran­son@latimes.com Twit­ter: @hai­ley­bran­son

In a pas­sion­ate speech Fri­day, the pres­i­dent of the NAACP called the shoot­ing deaths of nine peo­ple at a his­toric black South Carolina church an “act of racial ter­ror­ism” and de­manded that the Con­fed­er­ate f lag that flies at the state Capi­tol be re­moved, call­ing it a “tool of hate.”

“The fact that this shoot­ing took place in a church, in a Bi­ble study where the shooter asked for the pas­tor by name, it says to us that we have to ex­am­ine the un­der­ly­ing racial an­i­mus and racial hate,” Cor­nell Wil­liam Brooks said at a news con­fer­ence out­side the of­fice of the Charleston, S.C., chap­ter of the NAACP.

“This was not merely a mass shoot­ing, not merely a mat­ter of gun vi­o­lence,” he said. “This was a racial hate crime and must be con­fronted as such.”

On Wed­nes­day night, a gun­man, iden­ti­fied by author­i­ties as Dy­lann Storm Roof, 21, opened fire in­side Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church, a pre­em­i­nent sym­bol of the South’s black faith com­mu­nity. Six women and three men were killed in the rampage at the church, also known as “Mother Emanuel.”

Author­i­ties say Roof sat among wor­shipers at the church for nearly an hour, and that he chose a spot near Cle­menta C. Pinck­ney, the pas­tor lead­ing the ser­vice, and shot him first.

Roof has been charged with nine counts of mur­der and one count of pos­ses­sion of a firearm dur­ing a vi­o­lent crime.

Brooks, who grew up in Georgetown, S.C., said the shoot­ing hit close to home for him and was par­tic­u­larly shock­ing be­cause it hap­pened in a place of wor­ship.

“This crime does not rep­re­sent us,” he said. “This is not who we are.”

He said it was “morally in­com­pre­hen­si­ble” that “a stranger who was no doubt ex­tended the hand of fel­low­ship, the hand of welcome … could spend an hour in fel­low­ship, an hour in study and then per­haps lay down a Bi­ble and pick up a gun and lay down nine peo­ple into un­timely graves.”

Brooks re­peat­edly called the at­tack a hate crime and said it must be de­ter­mined whether the shooter was in­doc­tri­nated or inspired by oth­ers, or act­ing on be­half of any­one.

“We have to ask our­selves the ques­tion, ‘Is this the mat­ter of a lone shooter with a sin­gu­lar ha­tred?’ ” said Brooks, who last year took over the lead­er­ship of the Na­tional Assn. for the Ad­vance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple.

“This was an act of racial ter­ror­ism and must be treat- ed as such.”

Roof ’s Face­book page, which has since been dis­abled, showed him wear­ing a dark jacket with the em­blems of flags of two African coun­tries when they were ruled by whites. One was from apartheid-era South Africa and the other from white-dom­i­nated Rhode­sia, now Zim­babwe.

Brooks said that although peo­ple have been flood­ing into Charleston out of com­pas­sion and have prayed for the vic­tims, an “at­mos­phere of ha­tred” con­tin­ued to ex­ist in the coun­try along­side a “cli­mate of car­ing and com­pas­sion.” Brooks said he was an­gered by that jux­ta­po­si­tion.

He called for the Con­fed­er­ate f lag f lown on the state Capi­tol grounds in Columbia to be re­moved, say­ing it rep­re­sented racial ha­tred.

Though “some will as­sert that the Con­fed­er­ate f lag is merely a sym­bol of years gone by,” Brooks said, the flag was “lifted up as an em­blem of hate and a tool of hate” and “an in­spi­ra­tion for vi­o­lence.”

Curtis Comp­ton At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion

NAACP Pres­i­dent Cor­nell Wil­liam Brooks, speak­ing in Charleston, says that, af­ter the church killings, “we have to ex­am­ine the un­der­ly­ing racial an­i­mus.”

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