President Obama addressed the shooting that occurred in at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday night. He called attention to the racial and gun violence that plagues America.
A gunman killed nine people who gathered for a prayer meeting at a historic black church.
The suspect, identified by police as 21-year-old Dylann Roof, has been apprehended and arrested by police and is confirmed to be in custody.
"To say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families and their community doesn’t say enough to convey the heartache and the sadness and the anger that we feel," President Obama began.
The president spoke of the tragedy of the event, and the church's long history as a place of civil rights activism and sanctuary for African-Americans.
There is something particularly heartbreaking about death happening in a place in which we seek solace, in which we seek peace, in a place of worship.
Mother Emmanuel is in fact more than a church. This is a place of worship that was founded by African=Americans seeking liberty. This is a place that was burned to the ground because its worshippers sought to end slavery.
When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, they conducted services in secret. ... Some of our brightest leaders spoke and led marches from this church's steps. This is a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America.
"I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times."
Obama took time to address the issue of gun violence in America, saying, "At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries."
it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it's going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.
He acknowledged the shooting as a racial act of violence and reiterated Attorney General Loretta Lynch's announcement that it will be investigated as a hate crime.
The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history. This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked. ...
I am confident that the outpouring of unity and strength ... and love across Charleston today, from all races, from all faiths, from all places of worship, indicates the degree to which those old vestiges of hatred can be overcome. That, certainly, was Dr. King's hope just over 50 years ago, after four little girls were killed in a bombing in a black church in Birmingham, Alabama.
[Dr. King] said they lived meaningful lives, and they died nobly. "They say to each of us," Dr. King said, "black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution.
"They say to us that we must be concerned not merely with who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American Dream."
Earlier, Attorney General Loretta Lynch held a briefing on the shooting in which she called the attack a "barbaric crime" and promised to "do everything in our power to help heal this community and make it whole again."
She announced that the Department of Justice has opened a hate crime investigation into the shooting.
Lynch began her announcement by acknowledging the tragedy of the event, and ended by enlisting the help of the general population.
Good morning, all, thank you for assembling here today. Before we begin today's announcement, I'm going to take a moment to address the heartbreaking and deeply tragic events that occurred at the AME church in South Carolina last evening. This is a crime that has reached into the heart of that community. The Department of Justice has opened a hate crime investigation into this shooting incident. The FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshal's Service, Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Attorney's Office are working closely with our state and local partners and we stand ready to offer every resource, every means, and every tool that we possess in order to locate and apprehend the perpetrator of this barbaric crime.
An act like this one has no place in our country and no place in a civilized society. And I want to be clear — the individual who committed these acts will be found and will face justice. As we move forward in this matter, my thoughts and prayers and those of our entire law enforcement community here at the Department of Justice and around the country are with the families and loved ones of the victims in Charleston.
Even as we struggle to comprehend this heartbreaking event, I want everyone in Charleston and everyone who has been affected by this tragedy to know that we will do everything in our power to help heal this community and make it whole again. I encourage the people of Charleston, South Carolina, and the wider area to consider circulating the photos of the alleged perpetrator and report any tip, no matter how small, no matter how minor to the tip line.
Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at email@example.com.
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