Eulogizing a black minister killed in a racist attack on a Charleston church, US President Barack Obama has urged Americans to eliminate symbols of oppression. He also brought up tighter gun control.
On Friday, US President Barack Obama made a fresh pitch for tighter gun controls as he delivered the eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of nine black people killed in a mass shooting at a Bible study on June 17.
Obama spoke of the flag of the Civil War-era slave-trading Confederate states, which still flies across the South, calling the Stars and Bars "a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation," and pleading for Americans to keep up their guard against prejudice.
The attack intensified dialogue over slavery and its symbols and whether 150 years after the Civil War, lawmakers should remove the battle flag of the secessionists from the grounds of South Carolina's State House. Roof has posed in pictures with the flag, and it flew outside as mourners lined up to pay their respects while, in an open casket, the minister he allegedly murdered became the first black man to lie in state in the capitol since the post-Civil War Reconstruction era.
In the wake of the attack, some US retailers have decided to stop selling the flag. Some local governments have also taken action.
The attack also stirred debates on whether restricting guns, or even certain types of guns, might prevent large numbers of casualties. On Friday, Obama said Americans had become blind to the "unique mayhem" caused by gun violence. He mentioned the Newtown school massacre in 2012 and the killings in a Colorado cinema earlier that same year - other recent mass shootings that have shocked America, though not into action.
The killings, which follow a year of prominent deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of mostly white police officers, also come at a time of heightened awareness of racial politics in the United States. Obama also mentioned years of official and unofficial violence used to intimidate black Americans through violence, especially through attacks on places of assumed sanctuary.
"It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches," Obama said, "not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress."
The president also led the crowd of roughly 5,500 people in singing "Amazing Grace," a hymn often associated with African-American struggles.
mkg/bk (Reuters, AFP)