Several civil rights organizations issued responses to the Wednesday shooting deaths of nine people at the hands of alleged gunman 21-year-old Dylann Roof. Roof allegedly opened fire on a Bible-study group at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., killing six women and three men, including the church's pastor, state Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney.
The following are statements issued by organizations either via press release or notes emailed to their followers online:
Judith Browne Dianis, Advancement Project Co-Director
"This morning, we awoke to find ourselves in a state of disillusionment, confusion and grief in the face of another devastating attack on black lives. While studying Scripture in their own church, nine innocent black men and women were senselessly shot dead after opening their sacred circle to a stranger.
"Today, as we struggle to make sense of this illogical act of racially motivated terrorism, we must find a way to take comfort in the strength and resilience of our communities. We must remember that our feelings of grief, despair, anger and outrage are valid and necessary responses to the vicious racism that gives rise to this kind of senseless violence.
"In the days, weeks and months to come, we must continue working to create a world where black lives matter to all people. This is a fight in which everyone must engage. Culpability for this violent act rests with Dylann Storm Roof, but also with those who remain silent in the face of racial injustice.
"Despite our grief and our anger, we remember as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, 'The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.' Advancement Project stands with Charleston every step of the way."
Rashad Robinson, ColorOfChange.org Executive Director
"The ColorOfChange community offers its deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed in this unspeakable tragedy and the AME community at large. This day will be remembered as one of the worst mass shootings targeting South Carolina's black community in history.
"Yesterday's massacre confirms that for black communities, there is no safe haven from the violence and brutality of racism, not even a house of worship. AME churches have long served as beacons of black autonomy, spirituality and liberation. This church is the largest and oldest black congregation south of Baltimore.
"We support the [Justice] Department's Civil Rights Division, the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office decision to investigate this hate crime and are confident they will prosecute those responsible to the fullest extent of the law.
"More than 52 years after the Birmingham [,Ala.,] church bombing, which galvanized the civil rights movement, we are forced to face the reality that black life is under attack. Let this be a call to action for every person in America. The hard work of undoing systemic racism and building a country where black folks are free from both state and vigilante violence, cannot wait.
"Nothing short of a national people-led movement to transform the policies, practices, institutions and culture that keep anti-black racism alive will prevent us from mourning yet another tragic massacre 50 years from now."
Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President and CEO
"We are as thankful for the apprehension of the alleged Charleston shooter as we are horrified by the bloodcurdling heinousness of this act. We appreciate the swift work of federal, state and local authorities in apprehending the alleged shooter. We commend, encourage and will continue to support the ongoing investigation and prosecution of the person responsible for the deaths of nine students of Scripture in a beloved sanctuary. The NAACP family continues to pray for the family of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the late pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, and those who lost their lives in the Bible study. As we mourn their senseless deaths, we remain resolved to continue facing evil and fighting for justice in every corner of America.
"Our century-old, ongoing work of confronting violence with nonviolence, hate with love and racism with the highest ideas of our democracy yet continues. The mayor, police chief and witnesses describe this shooting as a hate crime. The coward who murdered nine parishioners in a church set a new and depraved standard of inhumanity. We, as Americans, by our resolve, determination and commitment, through our faith, will set an infinitely higher standard of humanity."
Sherrilyn Ifill, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. President and Director-Counsel
"The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. vehemently condemns the actions of the gunman who killed nine people and injured three others at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., yesterday evening. Emanuel AME, which was founded nearly two centuries ago in 1816, is one of the oldest and most prominent African-American churches in the country. Denmark [Vesey], who led a slave uprising in 1822, was a founding member of Emanuel AME 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 and Director Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill.
"Among those killed was Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, the pastor of [Emanuel] AME and a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives and the state Senate. Rev. 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."