Calls for Faith, Action, at Allen University’s “Emanuel Nine” Remembrance Service
When Dylann Storm Roof went into the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston on the evening of June 17, 2015, he exacted a tremendous toll.
Roof, a white supremacist, shot and killed nine African Americans who had gathered that evening for a prayer meeting, including the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator. The racial incident sent shockwaves through South Carolina and across the nation. Roof was ultimately convicted on more than 30 federal crimes and nine state murder charges, and is currently on death row.
The Emanuel massacre was felt particularly hard at Columbia’s historically black Allen University [a UNCF-member institution]. Three of the nine who were murdered—Pinckney, the Rev. Daniel Simmons and Tywanza Sanders—were Allen alumni.
On June 1, the school paused to reflect on all who lost their lives in the shooting. A racially diverse crowd of more than 100 gathered for the Mother Emanuel Nine Day Remembrance, an event hosted by Allen, the state Human Affairs Commission, and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.
The event was highlighted by an address from Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson, who prosecuted Roof in federal court. In April, Richardson was nominated by President Donald Trump to serve on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia. The U.S. Senate must confirm Richardson to that lifetime post.
During his remarks, Richardson told the assembled audience that, while Roof created carnage on the night of his crimes, he failed in efforts to sow widespread racial discord.
“The bloodshed he caused that night imposed an immeasurably high cost,” Richardson said. “But he failed in his mission. Instead of allowing hatred, division and distrust to take hold and grow, the family members and survivors, in that darkest hour and faced with extraordinary injustice, relied upon their roots in faith. They put on the full armor of God and stood firm, indeed living out Dr. [Martin Luther] King’s very legacy, that hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”
Nearly three years after Roof went on his church shooting spree, State Human Affairs Commissioner Raymond Buxton II urged those at the remembrance to not let the killer’s hateful acts disillusion them as to the decency of many people.
“I implore you not to lose hope in the collective goodness and forgiveness of mankind,” Buxton said. “We will not and cannot live in fear. The opposite of fear is faith, and we have faith.”
Also among those at the remembrance ceremony was District 70 state Rep. Wendy Brawley. The Democratic legislator from Lower Richland made news earlier this year when she filed a bill that would ban the sale, use and possession of assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and gun bump stocks. The clock ran out on that legislation this year, but Brawley tells Free Times she plans to refile it next year.
While Roof did not use a military style assault weapon in Charleston — he had a .45-caliber Glock handgun — those types of weapons have been used in a number of school shootings and other massacres in recent years.
Brawley thinks it’s time for that to end.
“Those types of weapons really don’t belong in the hands of civilians,” she says. “They are the weapons of choice of mass murderers, in most instances, particularly school shootings. I think we have an obligation to not only respect the Second Amendment, but protect those individuals who choose not to die at the hands of another.”
Brawley says she was surprised at some of the calls of support she received for her proposed legislation this year.
“We’re going to continue to press not only on the legislative side, but continue to press our communities across the state,” Brawley says. “A lot of gun owners called me in support of that bill. A lot of them did. And from parts of the state you might find very strange. A lot of the Upstate calls that I got were gun owners supporting the bill.”
This article by Chris Trainor, appeared in the [Columbia, SC] Free Times