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S.C. Councilman: Shootings ‘racially motivated terrorism’

Councilman William Dudley Gregorie, a trustee of Emanuel A.M.E Church where Wednesday’s shooting took place, says Charleston continues to evolve from its racially-charged history. Gregorie joins Hari Sreenivasan to talk more about how the city has changed, and what he sees for the future of Charleston.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:

    We turn now to one of Emanuel AME's trustees, who is also a Charleston City councilman, William Dudley Gregorie. He calls the shootings "racially-motivated terrorism".

    So, thanks for joining me.

    You know, there seem to be competing narratives here. On the one hand, that this is a crazy individual, and then, on the other hand, that this is a symptom of deeper systemic racism in your city or your state.

  • WILLIAM DUDLEY GREGORIE, DISTRICT SIX COUNCILMEMBER, CHARLESTON, SC:

    I think that it is domestic terrorism because I do think that the basis of terrorism is hate. However, I think it's very important to know that the gunman is not from the city of Charleston. The gunman is from about 100, 125 miles away.

    Our city is a city that is one Charleston, and we clearly feel that with this incident — what this incident has done is make our one Charleston more and more coming together as one.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, you've also had the unfortunate case of the Walter Scott shooting just a couple of months ago. What have you found in the aftermath of the — in terms of racial tensions that might exist?

  • WILLIAM DUDLEY GREGORIE:

    I think so that we have to really separate. There is a difference between the city of Charleston and the city of North Charleston, where the Walter Scott incident occurred. And I have a great deal of respect for Mayor Summey, who from the onset, was very clear that, that was a wrong deed that occurred, and the officer who was involved should be punished accordingly.

    But I think it's very important to make sure that people know that these are two distinct cities — the city of Charleston and the city of North Charleston.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, even if you looked at your city discretely from, say, North Charleston or the state of South Carolina, I mean, there seem to be these competing or conflicting facts, right? On the one hand, you've got an Indian American governor, you've got an African America senator. You, yourself are, elected from a majority white community, or the district that you're in.

    Yet, at the same time, you've got a Confederate flag flying high next to the steps of the state capitol.

  • WILLIAM DUDLEY GREGORIE:

    Well, for me right now, we are going to have time to deal with that issue. But as a member of Mother Emanuel, a lifelong member, what we want to focus on as a church and as a city, burying our dead, go through the healing process so that we can get to forgiveness and move forward accordingly.

    We're going to have a lot of time to discuss the Confederate flag and gun control. But right now, what we want to do is focus on our Emanuel AME family as we get through this crisis and heal and forgive.

    So, under no circumstances, at least as a member of the Emanuel Church, are we going to engage in politicizing the death of nine of our parishioners of which we now have to plan for nine funerals. So, we will have a lot of time after we bury our dead to deal with the political issues that you just questioned me on.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, you know, yesterday one of the most moving things I think for anyone watching in the country was listening to the audio of family members looking at the person or the suspect who could have taken the lives of their family members and forgiving them. I mean, just the power of witnessing and hearing someone forgive. What went through your mind? These are– these are fellow parishioners and members of your community.

  • WILLIAM DUDLEY GREGORIE:

    And I was not shocked at all because Mother Emanuel AME Church is a forgiving body. We know early on that if you fight hate with hate, then you also have failed. You have to fight hate with love. You have to fight hate with forgiveness.

    One of the mantras of our church is about hope. We clearly feel that living without hope is like living in continuous darkness. But hope will peer through the darkness, see the light, and wait until morning.

    This is morning for Emanuel AME Church. The sacrifice of nine members of our church will not go in vain.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. My condolences to your personal loss as well. William Dudley Gregorie, city councilman of Charleston — thanks so much for joining us.

  • WILLIAM DUDLEY GREGORIE:

    And thank you very much for having me.

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