'We Shall Overcome' rings out in Charleston

2015-06-20 08:59
People pray outside the Emanuel church in Charleston. (Stephen B Morton, AP)

People pray outside the Emanuel church in Charleston. (Stephen B Morton, AP)

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Charleston - The solemn verses of "We Shall Overcome" rang out in a college basketball arena on Friday at a vigil for the nine victims of a massacre at a historic African-American church.

Several thousand people - white and black - came out to the College of Charleston arena, a few blocks from the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the scene of Wednesday's bloodshed, hours after the alleged gunman Dylann Roof appeared in court.

Each person was given roses at the entrance, compliments of an anonymous donor.

Charleston mayor Joseph Riley said: "Our hearts are broken. We have an anguish that we never had before."

He said Roof had "miserably failed" to drive a racial wedge through the picturesque city of 129 000.

Linked arms

Roof is charged with murdering Emanuel's chief pastor and eight others, all African Americans, with a powerful handgun during an evening Bible study class.

About 50 relatives of the dead filled seats at the front and stood up when invited to identify themselves.

The emotional highlight came at the end, when the crowd linked arms, swayed left and right and sang "We Shall Overcome," the 1960s civil rights anthem that, by some accounts, was sung as early as the mid-1940s during a labour dispute in Charleston.
Read more on:    us  |  charleston  |  shooting

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