CHARLESTON, S.C. — Black community activists raised alarms Thursday about the mass murder at the historic black church potentially sparking race riots in Charleston, South Carolina.
“We don’t need any more bloodshed and we don’t need a race war,” pleaded J. Denise Cromwell, a black community activists. “Charleston has a lot of racial tension. … We’re drowning and someone is pouring water over us.”
Ms. Cromwell said that nerves were still raw from the fatal shooting two months ago of a black man, Walter Scott, by a white police officer in neighboring North Charleston, which ignited major protests.
Black activist Michelle Felder, 58, said she feared the city’s young people “aren’t thinking” and might seek revenge, an emotional reaction that she said she understood but was mature enough to resist.
“This is 2015 and we are still going through the same things we went through 50 years ago,” she said. “This is so sickening. We are so tired.”
Religious and political leaders have repeatedly called for calm since the shooting Wednesday night.
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Pastor Thomas A. Dixon, a civil rights activist and community organizer, urged the city’s black residents to “keep your emotions under control.”
“We’ve been consistently putting forward a message of remain reserved and stay calm,” said Mr. Dixon, who participated in an afternoon prayer vigil at Morrison Street Baptist Church, a few blocks from Emanuel AME.
Mr. Dixon called the attack “senseless” and a “horrific crime,” but he said the violence was not a new phenomena and stressed that similar attacks have targeted groups other than blacks.
“It is a crime that has happened in Jewish synagogs, Buddhist temples, Catholic churches and movie theaters and now it has come to Charleston to this AME church,” he said.