CHARLOTTE, N.C. — LGBT advocacy groups and community organizations across the region and nation responded swiftly Thursday to news reports of domestic terrorism in Charleston, S.C.
There, 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof is accused of attending the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church on Wednesday evening, where after an hour attending a Bible study, he began shooting inside the church. Nine people are deceased, including the church’s pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney. Roof was apprehended during a traffic stop on Thursday in Shelby, N.C., about an hour outside Charlotte.
Local LGBT organizations in Charleston responded Thursday.
“The hearts and prayers of the Alliance For Full Acceptance are with the families and congregants of Emanuel AME Church this morning and going forward,” a message from the Alliance for Full Acceptance, an LGBT community and granting organization said. “The crime of utter cruelty that took place last night in their place of worship is unconscionable and we stand with the African American community to do whatever we can to help seek justice and bring about peace and healing.
AFFA added, “As gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, we know all too well the atrocity of hate crimes. It’s a terrible reminder that our work for equality and acceptance on behalf of ALL PEOPLE is far from over.”
Organizers with Charleston Pride also spoke out, writing on their Facebook page late Wednesday evening: “Our thoughts are with the victims and families of the shooting earlier tonight at Emanuel AME Church. If you are downtown, please remain vigilant and safe as more details emerge.”
Nationally, the Human Rights Campaign also released a statement: “Today we are once again tragically reminded of the serious and widespread problem we face as a nation with violent, hate-motivated crimes – a problem which we as a nation must commit to addressing,” HRC President Chad Griffen said in a written statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the communities impacted by this horrific and senseless tragedy in Charleston seemingly targeted because of their race. As this heinous crime reverberates across the entire country, we stand united with allies and friends nationwide to end the cycle of violence motivated by hatred.”
The National LGBTQ Task Force also responded.
“It is with a heavy heart that we join in mourning those killed in last night’s tragic shooting at a Charleston historically Black church,” Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said in a written statement. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the murder victims and the entire community of Charleston.”
Carey added, “This massacre is frighteningly reminiscent of the tragedies of another era taking place in churches in the South. While many would like to think that our nation has eliminated racism and discrimination, this appalling act of hate shows that we have not. As this violent epidemic, the targeting and killing of Black people, continues with no end in sight—it becomes ever more clear that it is everyone’s responsibility to end all forms of racism and discrimination. No one, absolutely no one, should ever fear for their lives when stepping out of their homes, walking down the street in their own neighborhood, or attending a prayer services in their place of worship.”
Recent reports indicate that the accused shooter had an affinity for white supremacist causes. In some photos, he’s shown wearing a jacket with the Apartheid-era flags of South Africa and Rhodesia. In another photo online, he is seen sitting on a car with a front plate displaying three Confederate flags with the words “Confederate States of America.” Storm reportedly recently received a pistol for his 21st birthday in April.
Often referred to as “Mother Emanuel,” the Charleston church traces its roots to 1816 and is the oldest black congregation in the South and one of the oldest African Methodist Episcopal churches in the country. Prior to the Civil War, some of its members organized toward a slave revolt; they were caught and executed and the church was burned down by white citizens in revenge. Church members worshipped underground until after the Civil War.