Roof’s man­i­festo: ‘I have no choice’

Hate, hurt and heal­ing con­verge in Charleston’s Neck neigh­bor­hood

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY ANNE HULL

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The glow of their phones lighted up their faces in the night. Ter­rell White and his friends kept look­ing down at the up­dates, try­ing to sep­a­rate ru­mor from con­spir­acy the­ory from ac­tual fact. It was 9 o’clock— 24 hours af­ter a sus­pected white gun­man had killed nine black peo­ple at church two miles to the south — and here on King Street, the strug­gle to un­der­stand was un­der­way.

“Peo­ple at Bi­ble study, hear­ing God’s word?” White said, shak­ing his head. “That’s no heart. That’s no fear.”

“That’s white Amer­ica,” said Ab­dul Den­mark, a bar­ber at Fresh Cuts No. 2.

“Man, I wish we had some an­swers,” White said.

Up and down this low-in­come stretch of King Street are the foot­prints of the slain: sev­eral pas­tors, a state sen­a­tor, a li­brar­ian who spent 21 years at a li­brary where bou­quets of flow­ers were now jammed into the han­dles of the locked front doors.

King Street runs for sev­eral miles and con­nects the two re­cent tragedies that have come to de­fine Charleston — the shoot­ing death ear­lier this year of an un­armed blackman by a white po­lice of­fi­cer sev­eral miles to the north and the tragedy Wed­nes­day night at a his­toric black church in the heart of down­town. But it’s this neigh­bor­hood in the mid­dle known as the Neck where the chronic ache of poverty and racial dis­par­ity can al­ways be found.

Miss­ing are the protests and public out­rage that have ac­com­pa­nied racially charged killings in other cities across the United States. In­stead, there has been a kind of quiet that lasted all night Thurs­day and con­tin­ued into Fri­day, when the sun came up and the John L. Dart Branch Li­brary on King Street did not open as usual. The lights were off, and the doors were locked in honor of one of the vic­tims, Cyn­thia Hurd, the 54-year-old li­brar­ian ev­ery­one called Miss Cyn­thia. In 2011, Hurd was pro­moted to another li­brary in a dif­fer­ent part of the city, but she never re­ally left the small branch on King Street, re­turn­ing weekly and call­ing daily.

“Y’all closed to­day?” a man asked Kim Wil­liams-Odom, the cur­rent li­brar­ian who was us­ing her master keys to open the front doors. Wil­liams-Odom was Hurd’s pro­tégé. Though the li­brary was closed, the book de­posit needed emp­ty­ing and the re­turns pro­cessed. In the si­lence, Wil­liams-Odom flipped on the lights and set her keys down. That’s when she saw the bou­quets of flow­ers brought in by the clean­ing crew. There was writ­ing on the wrap­ping pa­per. “What is this?” Wil­liams-Odom said, lean­ing down. She shut her eyes af­ter read­ing the in­scrip­tion.

From the Rom­ney Street Kids. Mike, Tig­ger, Ta­lik, Jake.

More knocks were at the front door as Wil­liams-Odom told peo­ple they could try the li­brary down­town.

“This is my li­brary,” said a man with a book bag, un­aware of the loss.

The news of Hurd’s death was slow to spread. Not ev­ery house­hold in the neigh­bor­hood had a TV or In­ter­net con­nec­tion. Plenty did, though, and be­fore lunchtime, in bar­ber­shops and cramped liv­ing rooms, on TVs with flat screens and rab­bit ears, re­ports were be­ing read aloud of the killer’s racial ep­i­thets just be­fore he shot the vic­tims. Peo­ple won­dered how the gun­man had es­caped to North Carolina so easily be­fore his ar­rest.

“Be­cause the po­lice didn’t even put up road­blocks,” said one man, watch­ing from a lawn chair in­side a lit­tle mar­ket.

“Flee­ing the city of Charleston, you have 17 South and 17 North and 26 West,” said another. “Why didn’t they shut ’ em down au­to­mat­i­cally?”

“They’re baby-feed­ing us in­for­ma­tion,” said another.

Around 3 p.m., there was the sight of a crisp po­lice uni­form on the side­walk. Deputy Chief of Po­lice Jerome Tay­lor was drop­ping in on busi­nesses to quell any ru­mors about con­spir­acy the­o­ries. Tay­lor, whois black and a na­tive of Charleston, was go­ing on lit­tle sleep. On Wed­nes­day night, he walked out of Bi­ble study, turned on his phone, and learned that four blocks away a ter­ri­ble thing had just hap­pened at another church. Tay­lor raced over to see sev­eral of his life­long friends dead.

Now on Fri­day af­ter­noon, the deputy chief was in the bright hot sun of King Street, where build­ings all around were be­ing closed and de­mol­ished. The Ellen Bright Re­cep­tion Hall, that for 33 years hosted wed­ding re­cep­tions, grad­u­a­tion par­ties and “crab cracks,” was shut­ting down in a week. Tay­lor was a fa­mil­iar sight.

Peo­ple in pass­ing cars slowed down to yell hello. A yel­low school bus stopped, and the driver opened the door. “Hey, Jerome, gimme a call!”

“I re­al­ize the mag­ni­tude of this event,” said Tay­lor, con­tin­u­ing on his rounds.

Still the af­ter­noon was quiet, al­most glazed by the heat. A print­ing busi­ness hung a small ban­ner mourn­ing the tragedy. Anger and heart­break did not take to the streets.

“This is our town; we’re all we have,” said Monique Holmes in­side her cousin’s in­sur­ance agency on King Street. “If we tear it up, where do we go?”

In­stead, Holmes was at the com­puter wait­ing for the video feed from the court­room where the vic­tims’ fam­ily mem­bers spoke at the ac­cused killer’s bond hear­ing. Hear­ing the bro­ken voices of­fer­ing for­give­ness, she un­der­stood per­fectly. “You can’t move on from hate or hurt with­out heal­ing,” she said. “You need those three H’s.”

Around 6, the sun started to re­cede. It was start­ing to get cool enough for the kids in the neigh­bor­hood to come out­side. They gave chase in old sneak­ers and twisted each other’s arms and ran them­selves silly on the cracked as­phalt. Some of the houses were so old and de­crepit they looked like rot­ten stacks of Pop­si­cle sticks. The ones that had been newly ren­o­vated had Caribbean col­ored front doors and Nike run­ning shoes on the porch.

“What hap­pened to you?” said Mike Wil­liams, 9.

“I busted my knee,” said Ta­lik Brown, 10.

It was their names on the bou­quets of flow­ers left at the li­brary for Miss Cyn­thia.

They didn’t want to talk about it. In­stead they wres­tled or dis­cussed din­ner.

“My grand­daddy is in­side cook­ing crabs,” said Wil­liams, wip­ing the sweat from his face. “Hey,” he asked his other sweaty friends, “Y’all need a nap­kin?” In three min­utes, he was back with tis­sue and ev­ery­one was wip­ing his face.

Even­tu­ally some­one brought up the shoot­ings at the church.

“At first, I thought it was, like, two black peo­ple and they prob­a­bly shot at each other,” said Tony Har­vey, a 12-year-old with a fade and a stick-on tat­too of a su­per­hero on his chest. “I was watch­ing ‘Sports Cen­ter.’ They said it was a white man. A man killed my peo- ple in church. I said, ‘Daddy, I’m scared. Would it be okay to go over there and kill him?’ ”

Har­vey’s grand­fa­ther was the pas­tor at the church they were play­ing in front of, Geth­se­mane Bap­tist.

He said, “‘Just pray, and South Carolina will be okay.’ ”

It was time to go in­side. “I know God is pro­tect­ing me,” the 12-yearold said

An hour later, it was dark again, and that was when the quiet of the neigh­bor­hood gave way. A great thun­der­ous noise was com­ing from Geth­se­mane Bap­tist Church.

In­side, two gospel singers with mi­cro­phones were up at the al­tar while a band played, the amps turned up high. At first, the pews were empty, but one by one peo­ple ar­rived un­til there was no park­ing. Over and over, the singers re­peated a cho­rus. Let your chil­dren ride. Let your peace ride. Let your love ride.

As the song picked up, so did the band. On drums was Troy Har­vey, his fear and anger gone, re­placed by his method of un­der­stand­ing— drum­sticks mov­ing quick and fast, his head nod­ding, as the singers sang it again:

Let it ride. Let it ride.

Posted on Dy­lann Roof’sWeb site were a man­i­festo and 60 photos, in­clud­ing this im­age of him hold­ing a Con­fed­er­ate flag and a gun.


Sammi Smalls, the 44-year-old owner of Fresh Cuts No. 2 on King Street in Charleston, S.C., trims the hair of a client. The deadly shoot­ings last week at Emanuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church has left res­i­dents of the Charleston neigh­bor­hood known as the Neck in mourn­ing.

ABOVE: Al “Hol­ly­wood” Meggett, 84, leans against the ropes in his box­ing gy­mon King Street in Charleston. Meggett moved to the city in 1979 and has had the gym­for 33 years. “My kids get pushed up north, and they can’t come back be­cause it’s too ex­pen­sive,” Meggett says.

LEFT: Joe Green, a 30-year res­i­dent of Charleston, walks his dog Rocky just off King Street. “The change is a Catch22. It’s sad to watch peo­ple leave,” Green says. “It hurts, I guess, but it’s part of the times.”

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