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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

“I have to do it. You’re raping our women and taking over the country. You have to go,” declared the young white gunman as he emptied clip after clip of a .45 caliber handgun into the small group of African-American churchgoers at a Wednesday evening Bible study.

After sitting amid the congregation for nearly an hour, he stood up and started firing the handgun he’d recently received as a birthday present. He kept firing, reloading his gun five times in a rampage that left eight people dead on the floor of the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Another, the ninth, died on the way to the hospital. The church had been founded by worshipers fleeing racism; white slaveholders had previously burned it to the ground for its connection with a thwarted slave revolt; and in the civil rights era it became a symbol and headquarters of the movement. Now it was once again in the crosshairs.

The church sits less than a dozen miles from the park where Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, was gunned down by a white police officer. The calls of “Black Lives Matter” were still ringing throughout Charleston, when gunshots again cut down black lives.

The victims of this brutal and cowardly attack inside the sanctuary of a house of worship included a South Carolina state senator, a librarian, and a recent college graduate.

The alleged killer, later identified as Dylann Storm Roof of nearby Lexington, fled the scene in his black four-door sedan adorned with an ornamental license plate that read “Confederate States of America” with the image of the Confederate flag. After a 15-hour manhunt, Roof was arrested without incident nearly 250 miles away, during a traffic stop in Shelby, North Carolina.

Though new details continue to be unearthed, a portrait of 21-year-old Roof as a withdrawn, troubled man with an interest in white supremacy is starting to emerge.

The Daily Beast quoted a classmate from White Knoll High School about his reputation for spouting racism. “Just he had that kind of Southern pride, I guess some would say. Strong conservative beliefs,” said John Mullins. “He made a lot of racist jokes, but you don’t really take them seriously like that. You don’t really think of it like that.”

“Southern pride” still runs deep in parts of South Carolina. The wounds of slavery and the Civil War are still unhealed, in many ways. Despite many protests, the Confederate flag continues to fly over the state capitol building. In January 2000, at the dawn of the new millennium, 6,000 Confederate flag supporters marched through Columbia, the state capital, according to Leonard Zeskind’s Blood and Politics.

This spring, just 90 miles from the shooting, a statewide Tea Party convention invited a white nationalist leader to speak. The organizers canceled his appearance after the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights exposed his ideology. At that same convention, however, Tea Party officials and potential presidential candidates shared the stage with a Tea Partier who promotes a book that refers to blacks as “pickaninnies,” claims that slaves were treated humanely, and insists that slavery was just as inhumane for the slavemasters.

Beyond the racist jokes and Confederate flags on his car, Roof displayed more of the warning signs of involvement with white nationalism on his Facebook page. His profile photo shows him in the winter woods staring into the camera, clad in a black jacket with two flags affixed above over his chest: an apartheid-era South African flag, and a flag used to represent the unrecognized state of Rhodesia, after the former British colony of South Rhodesia fractured and a white minority attempted to take control of the country. Both patches are worn by white nationalists in the United States to express support for white minority rule.

Roof’s recent arrests also indicate that he may have had additional targets in mind for his killing spree. Last February he attracted attention at the Columbiana Centre, a shopping mall, when he asked store employees “out-of-the-ordinary questions” such as how many people were working and what time they would be leaving, according to a police report. A police officer questioning Roof at the scene discovered that he was illegally in possession of a controlled substance; he was arrested and charged with felony drug possession. In April, Roof was charged with trespassing on the roof of the same mall.

In a sad commentary about the dominance of local gun culture, the same morning that The Charleston Post and Courier ran a front-page story about the shooting with the headline “Church attack kills 9,” some readers found the headline obscured by a sticker advertising “Ladies’ Night” at the ATP Gun Shop & Range in Summerville, South Carolina.

Devin Burghart is vice president of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.


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Copyright 2015 The National Memo
  • Daniel Jones

    In an even sadder comment about the amorality of gun culture, the talking heads were swift to try to use the attack to justify *More Guns In Churches*.

    • BOC

      No one ever said they were the intelligent types. Blame Roger Ailes, who opened the floodgates for ‘wacko’s.

  • treeman

    Only in America, the open air mental asylum for disaffected lunatics. Why doesn’t the FBI shut down these looneys from facebook and other social media and keep them on their terrorist watch lists like they do Muslim fanatics? After all they are far more dangerous and deadly than any terrorist as they operate under the radar. The problem with most of these white supremacists is that they are social rejects and genetic mutants

    • Xenophon

      because last time they said “the threat is lone wolf militia types” republicans had a hissy fit

    • Insinnergy

      Because there’s nowhere to put them except jail… and it’s still illegal to jail someone who hasn’t actually committed a crime. Mental health has been defunded by the GOP as part of the “safety net” for years. Ironic that the safety net they were referring to was giving mental patients somewhere to go and thereby making everyone else safer.

      Plus the jails are already full of the mentally ill, minor drug offenders and other pointless convictions. The US has more people in prison than any other country in the world.

      If you’re not going to pay for mental health and you’re going to cling to your fully automatic replacement penises with both clammy hands and defy any sort of sane limitations, then this is what you get.
      Enjoy it.

      • FireBaron

        Tell that to Cheney, Rumsfeld, Al Gonzalez and company. They were all in favor of jailing people for suspicion of thinking about doing things they were opposed to.

      • BOC

        In the early 90’s, the republican plan was to eliminate mental hospitals to help those who filled their campaign coffers. Conglomerates like, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) would benefit under the carefully laid out republican plan in the disguise of cost cutting and savings.

        Republicans knew full well by shutting-down state run mental health facilities, these patients would be on the streets and eventually die or end up incarcerated. Big business for private prisons that view them as product, not human beings. Gov. John Engler was a main advocate of this system just like the state of Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas and others like California.

    • BOC

      Is this true, Joe Schmo?

  • Sand_Cat

    The opening words sound a lot like the right-wing trolls on this and other sites.

    • Grannysmovin

      Bill O’Reilly said on his show in April of this year “If you’re a Christian or a White Male in the USA, it’s open season on you”. What do political leaders and pundits think happens when they spew their demeaning, racially charged statements against the President and the black community.

      • BOC

        Do you think we can hold O’Really’s and Limbaugh’s accountable for loose-cannon’s like, Roof?

        • Grannysmovin

          Legally no – however when they go to meet their maker they should dress light, because where they are going it is very very warm.

          • BOC

            Very hot, indeed.

  • Steve Batchelor

    It’s hard for me to get my mind around the mindset of the over zealous gun nuts. I understand the use of guns for hunting and recreational shooting but the open carry nutjobs and the fervor for automatic weapons is beyond my comprehension. Is it going to take a few of the right wing nutjobs losing family members to wake up this country? I don’t know what the answer is but something definitely needs to be done.

    • joe schmo

      No the gun wasn’t nuts. The kid was nuts. Society has gotten uber liberal. He could have done just as much damage with a knife.

      These past days I have seen a lot of hate, online, from both sides in one form or another. Instead of praying or feeling sadness for the families of the pastors who were killed I have seen an impassive attitude displayed. This last decade will be remembered as one of division. Specifically racial derision. Started by the Left contributed to by the Right. Thing is everyone in our society today is to blame. We have gotten wayyyyy to liberal. Crimes are allowed to flourish under floppy laws. Our government is the most to blame. Unfortunately, the little guy has to suffer the consequences of a BAD government. So next time you feel fit to ridicule, look in your own camp too.

      • BOC

        So Joe Schmo is a Nazi. Uber, indeed. To you it’s about the choice of weapon, not who and how many killed. In a church of all places, but this doesn’t resonate with you.

        The so-called, impassive attitude you speak of others possessing is really you, based on your archives of threads over the months I have read. Yeah! Blame everybody else and not the main source of the problem.

        You hate rules and regulations, meaning you hate the system. What a weak mind you are.

        The guy is brainwashed and possessed. I’m sure his father, just like his uncle knew this guy was a ticking time bomb and needed psychological help.

        Yeah! Blame government for his loose screws. This convoluted thinking says a lot about you, who also need to be watched.

      • Mortalc01l

        Bull-puckey! He most certainly could NOT have done the same damage with a knife! Any number of people in that Church could have disarmed him by hitting him with a chair, a pole, hell, a rolled up magazine can do it, plus he could have been overpowered by as few as one powerful Man.

        You can run away from a Man with a knife; can’t outrun a bullet.

        What kind of sick human being becomes an apologist for those gun fetishists in our society, who prize their guns over all else.

        P.S. I’m a gun owner, not one of the “fetishists”.

  • 1standlastword

    My condolences to all the family members, friends and colleagues of those lost.

    I believe the “intent” in the heart of a person determined to use a gun to kill, maim and intimidate another person is much more dangerous than any gun of any size: the gun is simply the tool most efficient to facilitate the “intent” of the person behind the gun.

    That said, it is not my “intent” to minimize the vital importance of smart gun laws; even if I firmly believe there is no power of deterrence inherent of gun laws.

    I mean, just imagine what it would be like if only the criminals, the military and the police had guns: The example here is he be-damned fate of those people who all they could do was beg and plead for that guy’s mercy…mercy his hateful heart didn’t have to offer!

    To me, it makes perfect sense that something like this could happen given our current political and media environment around this nation’s first black president and the backdrop of hardships created by a past republican administration:

    The mythical Satan himself could not have created a better script! Dark times in America and the man in charge wears a black face…perfect fuel for a blaze of hot white hate!

    It especially makes perfect sense that this could happen in a state that is the epicenter of historical racial injustice: And that the wounds of both blacks and whites are kept fresh by the state sanctioned confederate banner aloft in the “capital” and adorned by persons and their property…remarkable!!

    With all the putrid stimulus of the past lingering around there, my grief for the innocent is blended with anger that this happened AND that people didn’t think it could happen!!

    I also reserve a measure of anger at the folks who WILL leverage this insane, cowardly, racist, terrorist action to criticize people who use guns legally, safely and responsibly.

    If one legal carry civilian in that church saved 9 lives with his legal gun this would have been a celebrated outcome and then we could focus on the narrative of racism in America which was the “intent” of the killer

    • BOC

      “The mythical Satan?”
      Believe me, he is very real, indeed. Ask, Roof.

  • FireBaron

    With the conversations about firearms, here is the true irony – his father bought him this gun for a 21st birthday present. The kid probably could not have passed a background check, himself!

    • BOC