U.S. CHURCH MASSACRE

Shooting suspect spat on American flag and burned it

Dylann Roof was seen waving the Confederate battle flag (above) and burning the American flag on a website with a racist manifesto.
Dylann Roof was seen waving the Confederate battle flag (above) and burning the American flag on a website with a racist manifesto.PHOTOS: REUTERS
Dylann Roof was seen waving the Confederate battle flag and burning the American flag (above) on a website with a racist manifesto.
Dylann Roof was seen waving the Confederate battle flag and burning the American flag (above) on a website with a racist manifesto.

He is pictured on newly discovered website waving Confederate flag

COLUMBIA (South Carolina) - Dylann Roof spat on and burned the American flag, but waved the Confederate battle flag.

He posed for pictures wearing a No. 88 T-shirt, had 88 Facebook friends and wrote that number - white supremacist code for "Heil Hitler"- in the sand at a beach.

A website discovered on Saturday appears to offer the first serious look at Roof's thinking, including how the case of black Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, who was shot to death in 2012 by neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, triggered his racist rage.

The site shows a stash of 60 photographs, many of them of Roof at Confederate heritage sites or slavery museums, and includes a nearly 2,500-word manifesto in which the author criticised blacks as being inferior while lamenting the cowardice of white flight.

"I have no choice," it reads.

"I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is (the) most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to whites in the country.

"We have no skinheads, no real KKK (Ku Klux Klan), no one doing anything but talking on the Internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me."

The website was first registered on Feb 9 in the name of Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old man charged with entering the historically black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston last Wednesday night, attending a prayer meeting for an hour and then murdering nine people.

News of the website came as large crowds were expected at yesterday's service at the church.

The service will be the first since the bloodbath, which has fuelled simmering racial tensions in the United States and reignited impassioned calls for stronger gun-control laws.

The church reopened on Saturday after police said it was no longer considered a crime scene, with some members visiting the room where fellow worshippers were shot dead, according to the local The Post and Courier newspaper.

The Charleston Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said they were "taking steps to verify the authenticity of these postings" on the website.

The day after the website was registered, the registration information was intentionally masked.

It is not clear whether the manifesto was written by Roof or if he had control of it.

Nor is it clear whether he took the pictures with a timer, or if someone else took them.

If it is genuine, the site offered a chilling glimpse into the interests of an unemployed former landscaper said to have a fixation on race.

"This whole racist thing came into him within the past five years," said Mr Caleb Brown, a childhood friend of Roof's who is half-black. "He was never really popular, he accepted that. He wasn't like, 'When I grow up, I am going to show all these kids.' He accepted who he was, and who he was changed, obviously."

Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder in the killings.

The website was first discovered by a blogger who goes by the pen name Emma Quangel, who paid US$49 (S$65) for a reverse domain search that turned up the site.

According to Web server logs, the manifesto was last modified at 4.44pm on the day of the Charleston shootings, and the essay notes, "At the time of writing I am in a great hurry".

Pictures of Roof holding the Confederate flag no doubt will add fuel to a raging debate in South Carolina about the banner which many still see as a divisive symbol.

Several thousand protesters gathered under the controversial flag on Saturday at the state legislature, demanding that it be taken down in response to the church attack.

Waving placards, chanting "take it down" and singing We Shall Overcome, the youthful crowd, black and white, condemned the Civil War saltire as a symbol of lingering racist sentiment in the Deep South.

"We can no longer afford to let that flat stand there" and be a beacon for those who harbour "bad opinions", said one of the speakers, 95-year-old lawyer and activist Sarah Leverette, prompting loud cheers.

Organisers called the event on Saturday a "warm-up" for what they hope will be an even bigger anti-flag protest, also in front of the State House, on the Fourth of July holiday.

As of yesterday morning, more than 389,000 people had put their names to an online petition launched by the left-leaning MoveOn.org activist group, calling for the flag to go.

Charleston was an important port city during the American Civil War in the 1860s, pitting the breakaway Confederate states against the Union Army.

The main issue dividing the country was slavery, with the rebel Southern states insisting on their right to decide for themselves whether to allow a practice they saw as vital to their plantation economy.

Officials say removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds requires by law a decision by the Republican-dominated legislature, now in summer recess.

NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2015, with the headline 'Shooting suspect spat on American flag and burned it'. Print Edition | Subscribe