New York protesters mourn victims of Charleston church rampage

Mourners gathering in New York's Union Square Park on June 18 to remember those killed at a prayer meeting in Charleston.
Mourners gathering in New York's Union Square Park on June 18 to remember those killed at a prayer meeting in Charleston.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Protesters in New York, some weeping, gathered on Thursday in honour of the nine people shot dead in Charleston and to call for an end to killings of African Americans.

"Black lives matter" and "Stop killing black people" were among the placards held aloft by a small band of about 60 demonstrators - black and white - gathered in Union Square in Manhattan, a day after the gun rampage at a black church in South Carolina.

They observed a moment's silence before reading off the names of the nine victims from Wednesday's killings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which occurred during a bible study.

The alleged killer, a 21-year-old white man named Dylann Roof, is in custody over what police are investigating as a "hate crime."

Some protesters brought candles, other struggled to contain their anger and grief over a mass killing that has again fueled simmering racial tensions in the United States.

Jen Tullock, actress and screen writer, 31, said: "We are sick of people of colour being killed in this country. I am heart broken."

Richard Price, executive assistant at the Harlem Church of Christ, said: "This is crazy, for someone to go into a church when you're having bible study, that someone would come and infiltrate that sacred space, one of the only spaces we ever really have, and to violate that space, and then to shoot the place up...

"We've got to speak up as much as we can and voice this frustration. This is a deep, deep-seated hurt that may never ever heal."