First funeral services begin for Charleston church massacre victims

FRENCH PRESS AGENCY - AFP
Charleston, United States
Published 26.06.2015 00:54
Ministers, including Reverend Jesse Jackson (C) and Reverend Al Sharpton (3rd R), surround the casket of Ethel Lance during funeral services at the Royal Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, South Carolina June 25, 2015. (REUTERS Photo)
Ministers, including Reverend Jesse Jackson (C) and Reverend Al Sharpton (3rd R), surround the casket of Ethel Lance during funeral services at the Royal Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, South Carolina June 25, 2015. (REUTERS Photo)

Mourners held the first funeral services on Thursday for the nine African-American victims killed by a white gunman in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in southern U.S. city Charleston.

Hundreds filed past the open coffin of Ethel Lance, 70, at a funeral home in North Charleston, ahead of an afternoon service for Sharonda Singleton, 45.

The deceased were among the Bible study group that was targeted in the June 17 massacre at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Dylann Roof, 21, is charged with murder in connection with the multiple killing, which he reportedly hoped would trigger a race war between blacks and whites.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver the eulogy at Friday's funeral of another victim, Emanuel's chief pastor Clementa Pinckney, 41.

Emotions ran high at the Royal Missionary Baptist Church as friends and relatives bid a final farewell to Lance, a custodian at a Charleston arts center.

"I am here to tell you that we are stronger because we are together as a community," Reverend Norvell Goff told the mourners, the local Post and Courier newspaper reported.

Lance was later laid to rest at the Emanuel cemetery, where her children and grandchildren kissed her coffin and well-wishers threw roses into her grave.

Singleton, a speech pathologist, high school track coach and pastor at Emanuel, was remembered by a capacity crowd at the 2,000-seat Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church.

"She believed she could change every child," said South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who attended both funeral services.

Seen in the pews were Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, two of the most recognizable civil rights activists in the United States today.


On Wednesday, thousands filed past Pinckney's open coffin at the South Carolina legislature in the state capital Columbia, where he had served as a senator.

Services for the other victims are scheduled throughout the weekend and into next week.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter