The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) vehemently condemns the actions of the gunman who killed nine people and injured three others at the Emanuel A.M.E Church in Charleston, South Carolina yesterday evening. Emanuel A.M.E., which was founded nearly two centuries ago in 1816, is one of the oldest and most prominent African-American churches in the country. Denmark Vessey, who led a slave uprising in 1822 was a founding member of Emanuel A.M.E. church which has come to symbolize freedom and progress in South Carolina.
“Last night’s terrible events in Charleston demonstrate how imperative it is that we confront the issue of racial discrimination and violence in our country,” said LDF President & Director Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill.
Among those killed was Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney, the Pastor of Emmanuel A.M.E. and a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives and the State Senate. Reverend Pinckney recently played a key role in supporting legislation providing body-worn cameras for all South Carolina police officers–a reform that the Legal Defense Fund has actively supported.
Last night’s shooting, which the Department of Justice has characterized as a hate crime, stands as a harsh reminder of the racial bias and prejudice that continues to exist in this country and that can and does result in the death of innocent and unarmed African-Americans. The City of Charleston, which remains largely segregated along racial lines, continues to grapple with racial tensions. This is yet another blow to the Charleston community that is still reeling from the killing just two months ago of Walter L. Scott by now-former police officer Michael T. Slager.
“I want to extend my deepest condolences to the families of the victims of this senseless tragedy. The fact that this shooting occurred in a place of worship compounds the gravity and devastation of this crime,” said Ifill. “We are relieved that the alleged shooter has been arrested and it is my sincerest hope that an indictment and prosecution will soon follow to send a message that violence perpetrated through hate and racism will be met with justice.”
LDF also applauds the Department of Justice’s decision to initiate a hate crime investigation into this matter.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is not a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) although LDF was founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. Since 1957, LDF has been a completely separate organization. Please refer to us in all media attributions as the “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “LDF”.