With Charleston Shooting Victims' Funerals Scheduled, The City Is Coming Together In A Powerful Show Of Solidarity
A surprisingly unified tone has taken hold of the city of Charleston, with demonstrators joining together in a show of support ahead of the funerals of several victims killed in the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last Wednesday. 21-year-old Dylann Roof was arrested on Thursday after he allegedly entered the church's prayer meeting and sat with attendees for nearly an hour before standing and opening fire. Authorities and witnesses claimed that Roof had made several racially charged comments during the attack and called the shooting a hate-crime. Rather than allowing the incident to further divide an already troubled nation, however, the city this week staged several demonstrations and vigils to encourage communities to stand with one another.
On Sunday, a crowd of thousands gathered at the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge near Mount Pleasant to join hands and cross the bridge together. Singing spiritual songs and marching side by side, demonstrators and police from both sides of the river met at the center of the two and a half mile span in a show of solidarity, despite the stifling heat.
"It feels great," Juliett Marsh, 56, told AP reporters. "There's so much love out here."
"I'm a member of an A.M.E Church, and I just wanted to come out and show my support for my fellow brothers and sisters who lost their lives," added Jawanna Goodwin, in a comment to The Huffington Post.
On Sunday, Chris Singleton, the son of victim Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, tweeted that his mother's funeral would be held on Thursday, June 25 at noon, at the same church where she had been praying the night of the shooting.
"The viewing will be at 10 a.m. on Thursday before the funeral," he added.
Coleman-Singleton, a 45-year-old mother of three and a beloved track and field coach and high school speech therapist, was a hard worker and fought fiercely for her children, members of the community told The Daily Beast this week.
"She was always fighting for her kids," Goose Creek High principal Jimmy Huskey told The Daily Beast. "She was a bulldog for her children."
Singleton's student-athletes also expressed admiration for her ability to push them while making sure they understood why.
"She always saw greatness in us no matter what — she always had a smile on her face, even when she was yelling at us," junior Kamryn Simmons recounted to The Daily Beast.
Singleton's funeral is the second announced since the shooting. On Saturday, state officials announced that a large funeral service for state senator and AME pastor Clementa Pinckney, who was also killed in the shooting on Wednesday, would be held Friday at the historic church, which has served as the oldest black congregation in the South. Prior to his burial on Saturday, state authorities added, the senator's body would lie in state from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the capitol rotunda of the South Carolina State House in Columbia. Mourners would also have the opportunity to attend additional viewings and services throughout the day on Thursday, first at the St. John AME Church in Ridgeland from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and later from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Charleston church where he died.
On Monday evening, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced during a briefing that President Obama would deliver eulogy remarks at Pinckney's funeral services on Friday. An avid supporter, Pinckney had first met the Obamas on the president's 2008 campaign trail.
Marchers at Sunday's rally were confident that the community will be able to heal, despite the tragic loss of such prolific community members.
"I sat and looked at the crowd, from all walks of life, and I feel promise," said Khalil Santos, who had brought his two sons to Sunday's "Bridge to Peace" event, in a comment to The Post and Courier. "It gives me hope."