Conservative icon Glenn Beck draws followers to Emanuel AME

Conservative media star Glenn Beck greets admirers in Marion Square before leading them to Emanuel AME Church.

The show went on — the cameras kept clicking, the admirers swarming. But for a moment the star couldn’t.

Conservative media rave Glenn Beck set flowers in front of Emanuel AME Church with Tania Beck, his wife. She paused to pray. But the emotions palpitated through the throng that had come to pay respects at the figurehead black sanctuary where nine people were killed. The mood was too funereal, the thing just too real.

His eyes teared, and he buried his head on her shoulder.

When he lifted his head, he took from his shoulder a wooden cross a bystander had asked him to place, and did, down the row of flowers. Gradually, as he shook hands with people around him, the trademark grin came back.

Beck arrived in Marion Square on Friday afternoon to a slamming pile driver and a still-swelling crowd of hundreds, trailed by a small media crew. He took a place at the foot of the statue of John C. Calhoun, the antebellum 19th century secessionist,

Beck was one of the first of what could be a line of celebrities expected to turn up under the lights of the media in a town and at a sanctuary where the emotions are still raw and the mourning intense.

“This is not a rally but rather a personal journey where we can pray together and show our support,” Beck had posted on Facebook. “The city was so gracious and offered the arena in town and some other locations. But I don’t want to make this into a ‘show’ or some political event. I just want to go and show my support and pray with like-minded friends.”

They came, a few carrying flowers, a few pushing baby strollers, most of them just craning for a look. One yelled, “We love you, Glenn.” When they joined Beck and an accompanying rabbi and minister in prayer at the foot of a statue, even the pile driver quieted.

“All of us go over to the church. All of us hold hands, hold hands with a stranger,” he told them. “We are all AME and we are all from Charleston, South Carolina.”

Then the crowd made its way across busy Meeting Street, a few holding hands, the cameras following Beck.

At the church they were caught up in a greater throng, singing hymns.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.