One of the most prominent black law student associations in the country is urging the government to bring hate crimes and domestic terror charges against the suspect in a shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
In a statement obtained by The Huffington Post, the Yale Black Law Students Association called on newly sworn-in Attorney General Loretta Lynch to prosecute 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, who is white, for crimes of hatred and prejudice because “South Carolina cannot do what justice requires.”
“We make this demand out of necessity,” the association said. “As one of only five states without hate crime laws, South Carolina cannot do what justice requires. Hate crime prosecutions send a signal that we have a duty to the historically oppressed, this duty is taken seriously, and the People recognize their culpability in the violence perpetrated and stand together with victims of hate against those who stand in the way of progress.”
Lynch announced Thursday the Justice Department was opening a hate-crime investigation into the shooting, in which nine people were fatally shot during a bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The attorney general called the massacre “heartbreaking” and “deeply tragic.” Members of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and Community Relations Services are already on the ground in Charleston.
Roof is charged with nine counts of homicide and possession of a firearm during commission of a violent crime.
In the statement, the association also called for a broader conversation about racism and discrimination in America, issues she noted were as present as the Confederate flag flying outside of South Carolina’s statehouse.
“America’s handling of its obvious and entrenched practice of racism and discrimination against its Black and Brown citizens must be confronted,” she said. “Never have we had a meaningful discussion about what truth and reconciliation would mean. But today, the fissures in our society have become chasms that are as obvious as the origins of the Confederate flag that South Carolina still proudly flies.”