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Members of Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in Charleston, S.C. after the devastating shooting of nine people, including the pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney on the evening of June 17, 2015. Photo: EFE/Richard Ellis

In grief, in solidarity: POWER to hold prayer vigil for Mother Emmanuel AME Church

POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild) congregation Mother Bethel AME. Church will be holding an interfaith prayer vigil tonight at 7…

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POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild) congregation Mother Bethel AME. Church will be holding an interfaith prayer vigil tonight at 7 p.m. as an expression of grief and solidarity with members of the historic AME Church in Charleston, S.C. — the site of a shooting spree last night that left nine members of the church's Bible study group dead, along with its pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

"There is incredible grief in our hearts this morning for our brothers and sisters who were murdered at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charlestown last night, and for all of us," POWER stated in a written release. "Emanuel's Pastor Clementa Pinckney, also a South Carolina State Senator, was a friend of our own dear brother Rev. Mark Tyler. Please join the Mother Bethel community tonight as Philadelphia grieves this terrible tragedy. We must drive out this hate and racism — we must pray, love, organize and fight with everything in us.  May God hear the prayers rising up today from our land, and may we know what to do after we pray."

Mother Bethel is located at 419 S. 6th Street in Philadelphia.  Overflow parking is available at McCall Elementary School on 7th Street.

Other interfaith and civil rights groups have also expressed their horror and sorrow at the shooting. "We are heartsick this morning as we take in the news of the mass shooting," wrote Michael-Ray Mathews, director of Clergy Organizing of PICO National Network. "Once again, we are reminded of the power of fear and hatred that devastates our communities. Whether it's Sikhs in a gurdwara, Muslims in a mosque beginning the season of Ramadan, Jews in a synagogue or Christians meeting for weekly prayer and Bible study, we collectively grieve the tragic loss of life, denounce the violence, and stand with the families and communities impacted. Our hearts go out to the people of Mother Emmanuel Church and the communities of Charleston, S,C."

Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange.org called this one of the worst mass shootings targeting the Black community in the history of South Carolina. "“Yesterday's massacre confirms that for Black communities, there is no safe haven from the violence and brutality of racism, not even a house of worship. AME churches have long served as beacons of Black autonomy, spirituality and liberation. This church is the largest and oldest Black congregation south of Baltimore. ... More than 52 years after the Birmingham Church bombing, which galvanized the civil rights movement, we are forced to face the reality that Black life is under attack. Let this be a call to action for every person in America. The hard work of undoing systemic racism and building a country where Black folks are free from both state and vigilante violence, cannot wait."

The shooting suspect has been identified as 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof. He has reportedly been apprehended.

The Department's Civil Rights Division, the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office have said they will treat the mass shooting as a hate crime in their investigations.  

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