Biden warns hate that motivated Charleston church shooter still threatens the country

President Biden delivered his second campaign speech of the year at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. At the site where nine Black churchgoers were murdered in 2015, Biden warned that the same hate that motivated their killer still threatens the country. Laura Barrón-López discussed the visit with state Rep. JA Moore, whose sister, Myra Thompson, was killed in the church shooting.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    President Biden delivered his second campaign speech of the year today at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina.

    As Laura Barron-Lopez explains, the president continues to warn about extremist threats to the nation's democracy.

  • Laura Barron-Lopez:

    Speaking at the site where nine Black churchgoers were murdered in Charleston in 2015, President Biden warned that the same hate that motivated their killer still threatens the country.

    Joe Biden, President of the United States: The word of God was pierced by bullets in hate and rage, propelled by not just gunpowder but by a poison, a poison that's for too long haunted this nation.

    What is that poison? White supremacy. Oh, it is. It's a poison.

  • Laura Barron-Lopez:

    JA Moore's sister, Myra Thompson, was one of the nine killed at the Mother Emanuel shooting. Moore is a Democratic state representative in South Carolina and joins me now.

    Representative Moore, thank you for being here.

    You were at the president's speech today as he remembered those killed by the white supremacist nearly nine years ago, including your sister. What did you think of his remarks?

  • State Rep. JA Moore (D-SC):

    I first was deeply moved by the fact that the president thought it was so important, as they kick off President Biden and Vice President Harris kicks off the election, to come here.

    I mean, I thought the overall message was resolute. It was sobering. And I was appreciative that he came.

  • Laura Barron-Lopez:

    What has your experience been like when you go to church now all these years since your sister was killed?

  • State Rep. JA Moore:

    It's difficult, to be honest with you. I still pray, but my eyes open.

    It's a place where so many of us find as a sanctuary, for me, it's a constant reminder of what evil looks like, what it feels like, and the residual effects of white supremacy and domestic terrorism.

  • Laura Barron-Lopez:

    And you don't go to AME often, correct? You worship at a different church. But what is it like when you visit AME now?

  • State Rep. JA Moore:

    Yes, it's — the unfortunate reality is, is that I oftentimes end up at Mother Emanuel in direct concert with talking about or commemorating that devastating and fateful night. It's difficult for me every time I step into that church.

    And it's something that over the past almost nine years I have struggled with. I mean, I would love to turn back the hands of time to before that terrible night and be able to find sanctuary in such a historic place that's meant so much and so many people, but it's very difficult for me.

    Today was a very, very challenging, difficult day for me to sit in that pew thinking about my sister and the eight other parishioners.

  • Laura Barron-Lopez:

    Since the Charleston shooting, mass shooters who have killed people in Pittsburgh, El Paso and Buffalo were all motivated by racism or antisemitism.

    Do you think that white supremacist violence has gotten worse in the years since the Charleston shooting?

  • State Rep. JA Moore:

    What's gotten worse is, Donald Trump was president.

    Donald Trump has given a hall pass for white supremacy, not that I'm saying that the former president himself is a white supremacist, but what he has done is stoked that suppressed feelings and emotions out of so many Americans that are these MAGA Republicans.

    So, not in just the aftermath of the shooting, but the maturation of Donald Trump going down those escalators, we have just seen increase in white supremacy in the forefront more so than before.

  • Laura Barron-Lopez:

    And do you think that enough has been done locally or federally to address this type of violence?

  • State Rep. JA Moore:

    South Carolina is one of two states that still doesn't have a hate crime bill as their law.

    Even after something so tragic happened to my sister and to those eight other parishioners, one of whom, Senator Clementa Pinckney, was the pastor of the church and a senator at the time, and still we haven't been able to do that.

    No, I mean, I think there's a lot more that needs to be done when it comes to combating racism and so on and so forth. And we need to do a lot more. So, no, I think there's a lot more to be done.

    But I'm going to say this to make sure I'm clear. That's not because the Biden administration has not tried. They have done a wonderful job of pushing forward individuals and policies to change that. But you're talking about almost 400 years of discrimination, a country that was the bedrock of the country was designed and — with a racist background.

    So, no, three years or four years isn't going to change it all. It's a lot more work that needs to be done.

  • Laura Barron-Lopez:

    President Biden warned today of the increase in far right violence and an attempt to erase history, be it the history of January 6 or of slavery.

    How much faith do you have that America can have an honest conversation about the same white supremacist violence that took your sister and that has killed other people since?

  • State Rep. JA Moore:

    One of the things that has inspired me over the past almost nine years is people's willingness to have these conversations about race, whereas, before, people didn't feel like they had permission.

    But, as you can imagine, I have conversations with strangers, with family members, with colleagues, with so many people now about people that may have that predetermined feelings about people because of their race that they didn't even know before, but they're willing to explore now, in the aftermath of this tragedy and that is in the forefront.

    So, yes, I mean, I think that, for sure, that is happening. But what I'm most worried about is that what we haven't seen is an end of white supremacy in itself. One thing to talk about it. It's another thing to change it. And I think we have a long, long way to go to do that.

  • Laura Barron-Lopez:

    Representative JA Moore of South Carolina, thank you for your time.

  • State Rep. JA Moore:

    Thank you for covering the story. Thank you all.

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