WASHINGTON -- White supremacists on Thursday quickly tried to distance themselves from the suspect in the mass shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, worried that a white man killing nine people in a black church in South Carolina looked bad for their movement.
"This is going to be really bad, I'm afraid," wrote WhiteNationhood in a discussion thread on the white nationalist site Stormfront. "Condolences to the families."
"The media and the left will use this to support their narrative that whites are slaughtering blacks," added MattwhiteAmerica. "It will not matter what the truth is."
The gunman opened fire during a weekly Bible study meeting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Police have identified the shooter as 21-year-old Dylann Roof, who is now in police custody. Roof reportedly told churchgoers before the shooting, "I have to do it. You rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go."
Stormfront commenters continued to hold out hope Thursday morning that perhaps Roof wasn't motivated by racism -- maybe it was anti-Christian hatred instead -- and their movement could keep what they think of as their good name.
"Lets not jump to conclusions and call him a WN [white nationalist] until there is an indication as such... The fact that he targeted a church gives me an inkling that it was religion-related," wrote WhiteVirginian.
"Yep, bad news for gun rights advocates as well," wrote maththeorylover2008. "Another nail in the coffin for the 2nd Amendment."
Time and again, many Stormfront members emphasized that their online community is one inclined to peace and racial harmony -- albeit segregated.
"[T]he Feds can waste all the time they want searching these threads," wrote member PureWhiteRagePWR. "SF is so dang PC, if it was a race crime it didn't come from here."
The site's members also took umbrage with what they perceived to be racial profiling against white people by the police. "Picking up whiteys who fit the bill in the area," posted member Craig Cobb above a screenshot of a local news report about a young white man being taken into police custody. "[H]e is hardly a prime suspect--just within a few blocks maybe, ha."
"If that's not the right guy they just ruined his life," echoed user sons of vengence, "[a]nd will never apologize for it."
Other commenters offered conspiracy theories about the shooting, suggesting that it was a setup aimed at distracting from conversations about race.
“These types of events are happening way too often and smell fishy to me,” wrote woden29. “People were beginning to talk about the race issue openly after ferguson, baltimore, and now the Rachel Dolezal scandal. Looks to me like the powers that be wanted to turn attention back to whitey if it turns out to be a white perp.”
There was some sympathy on the message boards, if not for the extent of the shooter's actions, then for his motivations.
"Okay, so I guess there is no question now, it was a white guy with a bad haircut," conceded GERyMOR. The user then suggested that the reasons Roof reportedly gave to his victims moments before he shot them are legitimate societal concerns. "It's a shame this happened and I do feel bad for the victims and their families. However, it's making me sick (although no surprise) how this is being spun by the media. Racially charged killings? It's a fact that Blacks commit way more crimes per capita and behave a certain way, that's why they get chased and hurt. They do rape our women, and they are taking over our country and cost way too much money to maintain. But none of these points will ever be addressed because then it would bring open discussion to the NEGRO PROBLEM IN OUR SOCIETY ... which is theREAL news."
"Obviously I am very against this heinous act of violence," WhiteVirginian said. "Although a White guy going on a mass shooting is made such a big event because it happens so rarely. Blacks commit mass shootings everyday in every major US city."
"Lets not make excuses when a person of our own race does something like this," added WhiteIsRight. "The guy was clearly a bad apple."
A number of Stormfront members seemed to be aware that their site would be subject to scrutiny by the press.
"We all condemn this sort of action," wrote sons of vengence. "We all despise it and think it cowardly. Make sure you write that on your next article about this incident!"
There seemed to be much less discussion of the shooting on a "WhiteRights" subreddit. "Shooting innocent middle aged black women in church is about the best way I can think of to help blacks win more sympathy and to fire up the anti-white groups," wrote one of apparently just two commenters.
"It's ok, mate, there are plenty of churches full of Negroes," wrote another. "Don't be too sad about it."
Ryan Grim contributed reporting to this article.
06/19/2015 10:10 PM EDT
Murdoch Owned New York Post Calls Removal Of Confederate Flag
The New York Post's editorial board joined the chorus opposing South Carolina continuing to fly the Confederate flag at the State Capitol after the shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, writing, "Time to take it down, folks."
The Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch, the current chief executive of 21st Century Fox and its property, the conservative Fox News.
More from the Post:
Yes, some white Southerners point to it as a symbol of regional pride. But it represented a bloody rebellion against the United States in defense of slavery.
The Confederate flag isn’t quite as clear-cut; many no doubt honestly display it to honor ancestors or just the "rebel spirit." But at core it remains the emblem of those who fought to defend secession and slavery.
That flag has no place on any government institution.
06/19/2015 9:13 PM EDT
Reverend Makes Fervent Call To Take Down Confederate Flag
During a Friday night vigil for the victims in the shooting at a Charleston church, Rev. Nelson Rivers III of Charity Missionary Baptist Church offered support to the families of those killed, and made an impassioned call for the Confederate flag to be removed from the South Carolina State Capitol.
Reverend Calls For Confederate Flag To Come Down
During a Friday vigil for the victims of the Charleston church shooting, Rev. Nelson Rivers III passionately called for South Carolina to take the Confederate flag down from the state Capitol.See what else was said at the vigil http://www.buzzfeed.com/jimdalrympleii/charleston-shooter-failed-miserably-to-divide-city-mayor-say?bffbnews&utm_term=4ldqpho#4ldqphoPosted by BuzzFeed News on Friday, June 19, 2015
(h/t BuzzFeed News)
06/19/2015 8:57 PM EDT
Lawmakers Moving Away Confederate Flag
On Friday night, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) tweeted, "We will have many conversations over the coming days and weeks, and the placement of the Confederate flag will certainly be one of those topics."
Also, South Carolina State Rep. Norman Brannon (R) told MSNBC that he would sponsor a bill that would "take down" the Confederate flag from state government buildings.
SC state Rep. Todd Rutherford just told @chrislhayes that a Republican state rep, Doug Brannon, will sponsor bill to remove Confederate flag— Steve Kornacki (@SteveKornacki) June 20, 2015
.@RepRutherford just announced on MSNBC that GOP State Rep Doug Brannon has agreed to sponsor a bill to take down the confederate flag in SC— Tyler Jones (@TylerMJones) June 20, 2015
06/19/2015 7:54 PM EDT
Vigil Held For Charleston Church Victims
Crowd. Bagpipes playing Amazing Grace pic.twitter.com/EWy6APzWRY— Christina Elmore (@celmorePC) June 19, 2015
"God wants Charleston to be a lighthouse. ... We are one family in this community" - Elliott Summey, chairman of Charleston County Council— Joel D. Anderson (@byjoelanderson) June 19, 2015
NBA Star Dwight Howard in attendance.
06/19/2015 7:25 PM EDT
Martin O'Malley Is 'Pissed,' Calls For Assault Weapons Ban
Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley didn't mince words in the wake of the massacre of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston.
"I'm pissed," the former Maryland governor said in a Friday email to supporters, in which he derided Congress for its inability to pass tighter gun control measures.
“I’m pissed that after an unthinkable tragedy like the one in South Carolina yesterday, instead of jumping to act, we sit back and wait for the appropriate moment to say what we’re all thinking: that this is not the America we want to be living in,” O'Malley wrote.
Read more here. -- Kim Bellware
06/19/2015 7:12 PM EDT
What It's Like To Be Black And Live Under A White Neighbor's Confederate Flag HuffPost's Dave
HuffPost's Dave Jamieson reports from Summerville, South Carolina, just outside Charleston: Annie Caddell proudly flies the Confederate flag in her front yard here in the Charleston suburbs. She maintains a cache of spare flags on her front porch, replacing the one on her white flagpole every few months, after it gets tattered. A visitor to her home -- if the "no trespassing" sign doesn't turn him back -- is greeted near the door by a green, imitation street sign that reads "Confederate Circle."
Caddell said she'll die before her stars and bars stop blowing in the wind.
"Would you let your family history die like that? I don’t think so," Caddell, who's "pushing 56," said. "That’s tantamount to treason in my family. You just don’t do that."
Her neighbors know to take her at her word. Read more here.
06/19/2015 7:06 PM EDT
Louisiana Gov. Orders Flags To Half-Staff
In a statement, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said, "Out of respect for those murdered in Charleston, I issued an Executive Order to fly flags over state buildings at half-staff."
06/19/2015 5:39 PM EDT
Roof Family: Shock, Grief Over Shooting
The family of suspected Charlotte church shooter Dylann Roof issued a statement on Friday night, expressing shock over the killings, and offering sympathies and condolences to families of victims.
JUST IN: Roof family statement: 'Words cannot express our shock, grief and disbelief as to what happened that night.' #CharlestonShooting— WSOCTV (@wsoctv) June 19, 2015
Roof family statement pic.twitter.com/wtPAPNhqUn— Rodrigo (@RodrigoEBR) June 19, 2015
The full statement:
Words cannot express our shock, grief and disbelief as to what happened that night,” the statement continues.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those killed this week. We have all been touched by the moving words from the victim's families offering God's forgiveness and love in the face of such horrible suffering.
06/19/2015 4:08 PM EDT
Rick Santorum: Charleston Shooting 'Clearly' Motivated By Race
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R) didn't equivocate Friday when asked about the nature of an attack by a white gunman on a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
"It was clearly racially motivated. Clearly," Santorum told The Huffington Post at the Faith & Freedom Coalition Conference in Washington, D.C.
The presidential candidate took issue with news reports that said he blamed the attack on a broader assault against religious liberty. He explained that he didn't know all the facts when he was first asked about the shooting on Thursday morning.
Read the full story here.
-- Igor Bobic
06/19/2015 4:07 PM EDT
Justice Department To Expedite $29 Million Grant Funding To South Carolina For Victim Assistance
The Department of Justice will expedite a $29 million formula victim assistant grant funding to South Carolina, according to DOJ spokesman Kevin Lewis. Some of the grant funding can be used to help victims of the recent tragedy at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.