21 Jun 2015

Church where nine were shot dead to reopen

6:14 pm on 21 June 2015

The African-American church in which nine parishioners were shot dead in South Carolina is to reopen for services on Sunday.

Members of the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church stand in front of the church and announce that services and Sunday school will go ahead as scheduled on Sunday.

Members of the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church stand in front of the church and announce that services and Sunday school will go ahead as scheduled on Sunday. Photo: AFP

Members of Emanuel AME church met again on Saturday in the room where their friends died on Wednesday.

Many more people are expected to attend the service at 9:00am local time.

Meanwhile, police are investigating an online post, possibly by the gunman, that appears to outline his motivation for the attack.

One of those who attended Saturday's meeting, Harold Washington, said the church's doors would be open to all on Sunday.

"We're gonna have people come by that we've never seen before and will probably never see again, and that's OK," he said.

"It's a church of the Lord - you don't turn nobody down."

Survivors say Dylann Roof spent close to an hour attending a church service on Wednesday before opening fire.

Crowds gathered outside the historic church on Saturday to hear pastors from across the US lead prayers. Many travelled hundreds of kilometres from across the country to pay their respects.

"There was an overwhelming feeling that made me drive here," said Monte Talmadge, a 62-year-old army veteran who drove 480km to get to Charleston.

A rally was also held in the city by the Black Lives Matter movement, which began after the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman over the killing of an unarmed African-American teenager, Trayvon Martin.

'Take it down'

In South Carolina's state capital, Columbia, protests took place to demand the removal of the Confederate flag from the capitol building.

The flag was a symbol used by southern states in the civil war, when they tried to break away to prevent the abolition of slavery.

It is viewed by many as a sign of the white supremacy advocated by those states at the time.

The protest followed US President Barack Obama's remark that the flag belonged "in a museum".

Protesters chanted "Take it down" and sang We Shall Overcome, an anthem of the black civil rights movement.

On Friday, South Carolina's Republican state representative Doug Brannon told MSNBC that he planned to introduce legislation to remove the flag.

Dylann Roof

Dylann Roof Photo: AFP

On Saturday, images emerged on a website showing Dylann Roof posing with the Confederate flag. In others, he is seen burning the US flag and visiting a former slave plantation.

In one image, he is shown staring down the camera while sitting on a chair in camouflage trousers holding a gun.

It is unclear who posted the images on the site, which was found on Saturday.

The website - since taken down - also carried a 2,000-word racist manifesto, the origins of which are also unknown.

The author says Charleston was chosen for the attack because of its history of slavery and its large black population.

Internet records suggest the website's domain was registered in February but it is unclear who was behind it.

A law enforcement official, quoted by AP, said the FBI was looking into the website.

Data from the images show many of them were taken in April and May this year.

- BBC -

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