Jurors in Charleston, South Carolina, found Dylann Roof guilty this afternoon (December 15) of all charges for killing nine Black parishioners at the city’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last year. Roof, who demonstrated White supremacist beliefs, faced 33 federal charges, including hate crimes and weapons offenses.
Charleston’s The Post and Courier reports that the three Black and nine White federal jurors deliberated for two hours before delivering guilty verdicts for each charge. About 50 survivors and family members of those murdered sat in the courtroom as the jury foreman read the verdict. CNN reports that jurors asked to re-watch video of Roof’s confession to FBI agents during today’s deliberations.
They were particularly interested in a part where he wasn’t sure how many people he killed. They heard arguments and testimony over the last week, including a witness whose son was killed. The jurors also watched video of Roof laughing after he admitted to the massacre. Roof did not testify.
The man accused of killing nine Black parishioners at the historic Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C. was indicted on federal hate crime charges Wednesday, the New York Times reports.
Dylann Roof, 21, was also indicted on other charges, including killing someone while obstructing religious freedom, a charge eligible for the death penalty.
Roof, who admitted to police he killed the nine people attending a prayer meeting because they were Black, was already facing nine counts of murder in state court, but the Justice Department said “the shooting was so horrific and racially motivated that the federal government must address it,” the Times writes. In fact, as pointed out by Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Wednesday, South Carolina does not have hate crime laws, backing the reasoning for federal charges.
A grand jury was expected to return a federal indictment on Wednesday afternoon. It was not immediately clear how that indictment would affect the state prosecution. The Justice Department has the option to delay its case and wait to see how the state case ends before deciding whether to proceed with a second trial. Under federal law, a hate crime does not, by itself, carry a possible death sentence.
Authorities have linked Mr. Roof to a racist Internet manifesto and said he was in contact with white supremacist groups before his attack on the Emanuel A.M.E. Church. He was photographed holding a Confederate flag and a handgun.
“I have no choice,” the manifesto reads. “I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the Internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”
In all, Roof was indicted by a grand jury on 33 federal counts. His tentative trial is set for July 11, 2016.
In a 37-3 vote, the South Carolina Senate decided to remove the Confederate flag from State House grounds. But the physical act of removing the flag may take some time, NBC notes.
The movement to take down the flag has two more hurdles: The bill needs to pass with a two-thirds vote in the South Carolina House, which is likely to be a tougher struggle than in the Senate. Several powerful House Republicans, including Speaker Jay Lucas, have not yet said how they’ll vote. If the bill passes the house, it would head to the desk of Gov. Nikki Haley, who has said the flag’s removal would be a way to honor the nine black victims gunned down by a white gunman at a Charleston church.
This is a developing story…
Weeks after a gunman shot nine people in a racially fueled attack on Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME church, South Carolina lawmakers are set to debate whether to remove the Confederate battle flag from State House grounds, or leave it flying high.
In a weekend interview with NBC’s Today Show, Haley said the removal would be an action of respect.
“You always want to think that today is better than yesterday — that we’re growing as a state, we’re growing as a country. When something like this happens, you reflect, and you say: Have we changed enough?” she said.
“I don’t think this is going to be easy. I don’t think that it’s going to be painless, but I do think that it will be respectful, and that it will move swiftly.”
According to the New York Times, the State Senate, composed of other elected officials who stand with Haley, will consider a bipartisan proposal to remove the flag.
If the Senate approves the measure, the debate will shift to the House; Republicans control both chambers. A survey of lawmakers by The Associated Press, the South Carolina Press Association, and The Post and Courier, a newspaper in Charleston, found last month that there was most likely enough support in the legislature to approve the plan.
There are, however, dissenters, the Times points out.
“This flag is a part of our heritage, so the people of this state should have the final say,” Mr. Bright, a Republican of Spartanburg County, told supporters on Facebook on Wednesday. Mr. Bright, who sought the Republican nomination for a United States Senate seat last year, is also offering bumper stickers featuring the Confederate emblem and the message “Keep your hands off my flag” in exchange for campaign contributions.
A recent CNN poll echoes Bright’s sentiments — at least 57 percent of Americans see the flag as a symbol of Southern pride, not racism. But the flag, which flew high during a war fought to defend and justify slavery, dredges up the painful and horrific past of African-Americans in this country. On June 27, community organizer, activist, singer and North Carolina native Brittany “Bree” Newsome was arrested after she took it upon herself to scale the pole and remove the flag from State House grounds herself.
President Barack Obama continues to lead this country with class and heart, delivering a touching and emotional eulogy for state Senator and Reverend Clementa Pinckney, an unfortunate victim in the tragic shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last week. Obama spoke eloquently of the good works and commitment to community Pinckney had, and solemnly acknowledged by name each of the church members who lost their lives with Pinckney. He then proceeded to talk about the history of the black church and the power of grace.
To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church. The church is and always has been the center of African American life… a place to call our own in a too-often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.
Over the course of centuries, black churches served as hush harbors, where slaves could worship in safety, praise houses, where their free descendants could gather and shout “Hallelujah…” … rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad, bunkers for the foot soldiers of the civil-rights movement.
They have been and continue to community centers, where we organize for jobs and justice, places of scholarship and network, places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harms way and told that they are beautiful and smart and taught that they matter. That’s what happens in church. That’s what the black church means — our beating heart, the place where our dignity as a people in inviolate.
There’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel, a church… built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founders sought to end slavery only to rise up again, a phoenix from these ashes.
Obama goes on to address the Confederate flag as a symbol of systemic oppression and racial subjugation, and calls getting rid of it as “one step in an honest accounting of America’s history. A modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds.” To read a transcript of his incredible eulogy, which also forcefully addresses mass incarceration, police brutality, voting rights, gun violence and systemic racial bias, click here. To see it in full, watch below:
“This has been a very difficult time for our state,” Haley said. “We have stared evil in the eye. … Our state is grieving, but we are also coming together.”
“Today, we are here to say it is time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds,” said Haley, surrounded by top leaders including U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, both Republicans like the governor. The other politicians broke out in cheers during the announcement.
The decision follows days of protests inside the state and growing pressure on Republican leaders to back away from the flag. Roof, 21, is being held on nine murder charges in connection with the shooting last Wednesday. Pictures of Roof have surfaced showing the high school dropout with the flag.
Though she sharply condemned the alleged shooter, Haley noted that the flag represents many positive things for people in her state. “The hate-filled murderer has a sick and twisted view of the flag,” she said, adding, “we have changed through the times and we will continue to do so, but that doesn’t mean we forget our history.”
In calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from state grounds, Haley said: “My hope is that moving a symbol that divides we can move forward and honor the nine blessed souls who are in heaven.”
Religious and political leaders including Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said earlier Monday that they would push for the flag’s removal when the Legislature returns. Riley has led protest marches against the flag and has called for its removal from state grounds before.
“The time has come for the Confederate battle flag to move from a public position in front of the state Capitol to a place of history,” Riley said at a televised news conference. The flag “was appropriated years and years ago as a symbol of hate,” Riley said, and should be moved to a museum.
The Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III of the National Action Network said the flag should be removed before the body of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in the attack, lies in state on Wednesday. Pinckney was also pastor of Emanuel AME.
Republicans, who control South Carolina’s state Legislature, have rebuffed many previous calls to remove the flag, which dates from the Civil War. For civil rights activists and many others, the flag is a racist symbol of the state’s slave past. The flag has also been adopted by some white supremacist groups in modern times.
First and foremost, all of us at Good Black News are heartbroken over the loss of the nine precious lives taken this week by senseless, hateful murder at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and our sympathies and prayers go out to the families and loved ones most acutely affected by this domestic terrorism. Even though you may already know the names of the unintended martyrs, they bear repeating, and often, so we never forget: Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Tywanza Sanders, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Daniel L. Simmons, Ethel Lee Lance, Myra Thompson, and Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor.
We call them martyrs because they are now part of the unfortunately long lineage of named and unnamed African-Americans subjected to racially-motivated violence in the United States. From enslaved persons who died on slave ships in the Middle Passage, to persons enslaved in the colonies, to Reconstruction, to the Jim Crow era, to the Civil Rights movement and up through today, the pattern is plain: you are black, you are hated, your life doesn’t matter, you die violently.
I have spent a lot of time this past week reading and watching coverage of this national tragedy, not only to gather as much information as possible, but also to process and attempt to think of the right words to share on how to move forward in a positive manner, as that is overriding philosophy and mission of Good Black News. I do think it is crucial first, however, to talk about WHERE this happened, HOW it happened and WHY it happened.
As everyone knows by now, South Carolina so proudly claims its antebellum history that the Confederate flag still flies on its State Capitol building. The battle at Fort Sumpter in 1861, right outside of Charleston, which occurred not long after South Carolina seceded from the Union, set off the Civil War. Tourist shops in Charleston casually sell merchandise such as mammy magnets and confederate bumper stickers, which are symbols of racial oppression to my eyes, but symbols of “the good ol’ days” to others.
The other “where” in this situation is specifically the Emanuel AME Church. The history of this church is steeped in the fight for African-Americans to create their own place of worship and the freedom to express their humanity. One of the church founders, Denmark Vesey, attempted in 1822 to organize a slave rebellion from this space, which, although thwarted, created mass hysteria among the slave owners in the Carolinas and lead to the church being burned. It has been rebuilt several times and stands as a consistent symbol of black pride, resistance and fortitude. So the choice of this place for this action makes it clear this was a targeted, racially-motivated attack.
On Wednesday night, in the spirit of fellowship, church members welcomed Dylann Roof, the unfamiliar stranger who would become their assassin, to join and participate in their bible study. He took advantage of their compassion and open hearts to forward a racist agenda that is centuries-old and still pervasive in the DNA of this country, and particularly so in South Carolina and the South. In the 1960s, people didn’t call the killers of Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., or the four African-American girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama “mentally insane.” They called them what they were – Klan members and/or racists. So regardless of whether or not Roof has mental problems, his racism and desire for racial supremacy is the primary motivation behind his actions.
So, clearly knowing all of that, what are some positive, actionable ways we can move forward as a nation, in our communities and in our personal lives from this horrific event?
Petition/protest/vote for removals of all symbols of oppression and hate from government buildings, streets, tourist centers and shops.
Contribute to the donation fund set up for the families of the victims of the Emanuel AME shootings.
Support/join organizations such as the NAACP, ACLU or the National Urban League, that are dedicated to protesting racial injustice and empowering minorities.
Educate all children of all colors and creeds about the racial history of the United States from slavery to the present and call it what it is. Visit civil rights museums. Read, know and learn the history. Just as Jewish peoples around the world make sure each generation “never forgets” the Holocaust – so should we never forget about American racial injustice.
Keep calling out and protesting current injustices – we need to keep filming and reporting and being sources for unjust police actions, racial disparities in the workplace and even in our personal conversations. Let’s not be Roof’s friend Joseph Meek Jr.,who now regrets not checking his friend more thoroughly about his racist vitriol.
Love. Find forgiveness in our hearts just as the family members of several of the victims are doing for the assailant. Meeting hate with hate solves nothing.