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HOLMBERG: Charleston massacre targets historic black church — to make history?

Posted at 12:15 AM, Jun 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-19 06:26:50-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- We’re hearing many people say how senseless this sickening act of violence was in Charleston, but I’m guessing it was carefully staged with great deliberation for maximum impact -- perfect sense in the twisted mind behind it.

Consider the target:

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is the oldest AME church in the South. Its body will celebrate its 200th anniversary next year, having stood two centuries as a beacon to racial freedom and  equality.

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It was burned to the ground after its co-founder, brilliant former slave Denmark Vesey, organized what was reportedly to be the largest slave revolt in the country, which was thwarted in 1822.

He and the other alleged co-conspirators were hanged. There’s a statue honoring  Vesey in a downtown Charleston park.

Parishioners rebuilt the church – some believe Vesey’s own sons among them.

Richard Harvey Cain would lead that church, and serve South Carolina as U.S. Congressman in the 1870s.

That high-profile blending of religious, civil rights and political missions continued at Mother Emanuel. The latest  pastor, Clementa Pinkney (killed in the attack) also served in the state Senate as a voice for poor. He had been in the news lately lobbying for measures to curb police abuse.

The church was destroyed by the great earthquake of 1886 and rebuilt in its current form in 1891.

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Civil rights leaders Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King famously spoke at the church.

Its pastor and many parishioners were arrested in 1969 when a march for striking hospital workers led by Coretta Scott King culminated there.

Emanuel AME stands as a well-known Charleston civil rights icon of great historic significance. It’s very unlikely, in my opinion, that it was selected at random by the killer.

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You know, it seems we’re in the midst of an era when mass killers seem to be out to make the biggest, bloodiest headlines they can – to make a bigger, more-painful  impact than the previous one.

This piece of human wreckage struck in the midst of a long wave of  racial tension and distrust, at the very nerve center in the South’s fight for equality and justice.

A hate crime of truly historic proportions.

My guess is that’s what the shooter was really gunning for.

And now, we have to see his face and hear his story. A reward for him, sickening for us.

How do we stop giving these mass killers the fame they want?

That’s my take, please post yours in the comment section below.

Mark Holmberg's commentaries appear on WTVR CBS 6 News at 11 and WTVR.com.