Three people killed in a racist shooting at a Bible study have been laid to rest in Charleston. Debate continues about whether South Carolina should continue to fly the Confederate flag, a symbol of slavery.
Mourners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston paid their respects to 54-year-old Cynthia Hurd, 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders and 87-year-old Susie Jackson 11 days after a white gunman killed them and six other black worshipers in an apparent effort to ignite a race war. Attendees included South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Republican US Senator Tim Scott and the Reverend Jesse Jackson, a leading civil rights activist.
Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley Jr. compared the killings to other violent racist attacks in the South, referencing a 1960s bombing of a Baptist church in Alabama that killed four girls. The June 17 murders "shook an America that didn't want to believe this kind of hate could still exist," Riley said.
As he delivered the eulogy for Pinckney, Barack Obama called for an end to racial injustice and white supremacist violence in the United States. The nation's first black president also called for new efforts to eliminate poverty and employment discrimination, and asked Southern institutions to remove the battle flag of the Civil War-era slave-trading Confederate states from places of honor.
'A new South'
Charged with the nine murders, Dylann Storm Roof had embraced Confederate symbols, posing with the Stars and Bars in photos and burning the US flag. The evidence and the emergence of a racist manifesto purportedly written by Roof prompted reversals last week by regional officials who had previously given such symbols an outsized role in Southern identity.
Police in the capital, Columbia, arrested a woman on Saturday after she ripped down the Confederate flag that continued to fly at the state house. Bree Newsome, who scaled the pole, and fellow 30-year-old James Ian Tyson, both of neighboring North Carolina, face misdemeanor charges in the incident.
On Saturday, a group of Confederate enthusiasts chanted and waved the banner at the state house in Columbia as the victims were laid to rest in Charleston. Investigators are looking into fires at regional black churches that have occurred since the murders.
mkg/bk (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)