Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof's death penalty trial continues

Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof's federal penalty phase is schedule for January. Leroy Burnell/Staff

The president of the NAACP rallied a raucous crowd at Emanuel AME Church on Saturday to cast votes that would address the kinds of racial profiling and gun violence that led to two racially charged trials taking place in Charleston next week.

NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks, a minister and lawyer, rallied a mostly black crowd of about 200 to remember the struggles of generations before them to secure their right to vote. He called on them to act in “an anguishing hour in our democracy" when they hit polls on Tuesday.

He saved particular fervor for urging people to vote for a candidate who would tackle racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

“Our children are not to be thrown away. We need a president who understands you cannot throw 1 million fathers away behind bars. Yet we have a campaign in which a candidate talks about stop and frisk,” Brooks said.

He pointed to Walter Scott, a black motorist shot and killed by a white police officer in North Charleston after a scuffle. The murder trial of officer Michael Slager started last week and will continue on Monday. 

“On the eve of the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act, we come to this moment in which we’ve seen a generation of African-American sons and daughters – our children – criminalized and profiled and brutalized in the streets," Brooks said.

When voters stand in ballot boxes on Tuesday, Brooks said they should consider writing in the name of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Emanuel's slain pastor, or Rosa Parks, the civil rights icon.

“Can you write in the name of a slave?” he said.

Seventh District AME Bishop Samuel Green Sr., whose district spans South Carolina, also spoke at the church where self-avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof allegedly killed nine black Bible study worshipers in June 2015. Roof goes on trial Monday in federal court for 33 charges aincluding hate crimes. At the same time, Slager’s trial continues across the street in, a state courtroom.

“Walter Scott says vote. And from the basement of this church, nine voices are crying, 'Vote for me. Cast a ballot for me,' " Green said. 

Reach Allison Nugent-Caruso at 843-937-5706.

Jennifer Berry Hawes is a member of the Watchdog and Public Service team who worked on the newspaper's Pulitzer-Prize winning investigation, "Till Death Do Us Part."