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