The U.S. Black Lives Matter movement released a statement Friday extending condolences to the families and community of the nine victims of the shooting at the Charleston Emanuel AME Church and condemning the attack as an act of terrorism.
“We are reminded today that while our attention has focused on increasing state and police violence against Black people, racist vigilante attacks are a large part of this country’s legacy,” said the Black Lives Matter statement. “We must face the hard truth that our collective work goes much further than the implementation of body cameras and police reform initiatives if we cannot even be safe worshiping at church.”
The “Mother” Emanuel AME Church is an important symbol of historic Black resistance as the largest and oldest Black congregation of the U.S. South. Now, this iconic location rich in Black history and pride, will “be known as the site of an unspeakable and tragic act,” said Black Lives Matter activists in the statement.
And for Black Lives Matter, this history and the present are deeply connected, both in terms of discrimination and violence against the Black community, but also resistance.
“Our communities continue to suffer the many strains of a cancerous racism allowed to flourish in this country,” said the statement, pointing to historical and recent examples of injustice and violence toward Black people in the United States. “While the arrest of this shooter must come as a small comfort to the families of those killed, we know we cannot arrest our way out of this country's history of its present.”
While U.S. politicians and media have labeled the mass shooting a hate crime, Black Lives Matter joins others who have not shied away from calling the shooting an act of terror.
“This was an undeniable act of terrorism intended to strike fear into the hearts of Black communities at a time when we have bravely stood together declaring that #BlackLivesMatter everywhere,” the statement read.
The Black Lives Matter movement has pledged to continue to fight against systemic racial discrimination to build a society that values Black lives, adding to the list of names in which the movement struggles the victims of the Charleston shooting.