Charleston activists denounce Shabazz, tactics

Bo Petersen/StaffJames Johnson and other community activists have denounced a call to violence by Malik Shabazz following the shooting death of nine Emanueul AME Church members.

Local leaders on Wednesday rapidly denounced Malik Shabazz’s call for violence after the shooting deaths of the nine Emanuel AME Church members.

“They are more than welcome here,” said James Johnson about the Black Lawyers for Justice president and Black Lives Matter organizers who invited Shabazz to speak Tuesday. “But take that hate home with them.”

Johnson and other local leaders of the National Action Network were joined by state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, to ask the community to keep working together after Shabazz called, in part, for the black community to arm itself against whites. Shabazz then marched with the group to Emanuel AME Church.

“Mr. Shabazz, you are not welcome here with your hate,” Johnson said. “We will not stand back and allow hate to spread around Charleston.” Racism persists, and economic parity and social injustice must be discussed, he said, but the community and its leaders are dealing with it.

“This is a place of peace. This is a place of prayer. Come in hate and we will ask you to leave,” said Bryan Sharper of the network’s Berkeley Chapter.

Local members of the clergy and NAN also called on organizations to refrain from protests or actions that would “disrespect and interfere with the sanctity of the upcoming funerals.”

Shabazz spoke loudly into a microphone in front of about 150 people during a news conference Tuesday ion Marion Square. He condemned those in the community who forgave the alleged shooter, Dylann Roof, and encouraged black people to “arm yourself.” He called for them not to overcome but to overrun.

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Shabazz said the Charleston effort was getting organized and announced plans to hold a registration for the organization, voting, guns and gun training in front of the church on Saturday. The registration would follow funerals for three of the victims.

But Demond McElveen of the North Charleston Coalition for Reform said Wednesday that the registration would be postponed. The comments Tuesday were not a call to violence but a call for justice and equality on social and economic issues confronting blacks, he said. McElveen asked Shabazz to come to Charleston, he said.

“At no time do we hate white people. It’s just the 1 percent of you people. Their ignorance brings out the ignorance in others,” McElveen said. The emphasis on gun registration and training was for self-defense, he said.

Charleston police are aware of Shabazz’s Facebook post, spokesman Charles Francis said.

Speaking with Johnson, community activist the Rev. Thomas Dixon said, “Dylann Roof made it quite plain that the purpose of what he was doing here was to start a race war. Why would we want to do that?” Dixon appealed to people in the black communities, saying what Shabazz called for was exactly what Roof wanted. “You’re giving in again to the same ideology: The white man tells you what to do.”

Johnson labeled Shabazz’s call in front of the church “a slap in the (victims’) families’ face.” Local black leaders will push for reform, addressing issues such as Confederate flags flown in public in local communities and “offensive” monuments, Johnson said.

“God sent a message through these people (who were killed),” said Charles Tyler of the network. “That message is healing. It’s time for the past to be the past and the present to be the present.”

Meanwhile, Charleston police are investigating a separate protest in the wake of the shooting at Emanuel AME. The incident involved members of the Black Lives Matter Charleston group burning an American flag in Marion Square.

Video posted on social media by activist DeRay McKesson captured the burning this week. A small group of onlookers watched as flames ate away at a flag held by two men.

“We are under a terrorist American state,” a third man can be heard saying in the background. “We are under a terrorist attack.”

A still image that also surfaced shows one of the men talking with Charleston officers, who reportedly intervened.

Melissa Boughton contributed to this report.