Presidential Candidate Cory Booker Condemns Gun Violence & Racism in Speech at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina

Democratic presidential cadidate Sen. Cory Booker delivers a speech on gun violence and racism at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C., on Aug. 7, 2019. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

Invoking God and Christian love, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker railed against gun violence and racism in a speech on Wednesday (Aug. 7) at the site of a 2015 church shooting that left nine African American worshippers dead.

“We’re here this morning in the wake of yet another act of hatred in America,” Booker said as he began his address at Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston. “But I come here today because of love. The kind of love I learned about in church growing up.”

Booker’s address, framed as response to two recent mass shootings, focused primarily on the murders in El Paso, Texas, where the suspected perpetrator killed at least 22 people and is believed to have a direct connection to white supremacist ideology.

White nationalism was at the heart of the 2015 shooting at Emanuel, where the shooter invoked white supremacy as his reason for killing black churchgoers during a Bible study. Booker argued the issue of racism has plagued the United States since the beginning.

“Bigotry was written into our founding documents. Native Americans in our Declaration of Independence were referred to as ‘savages’ and in our Constitution, black people are fractions of human beings,” said the New Jersey senator. “White supremacy has always been a problem in our American story — if not always at the surface, then lurking not so far beneath it.”

Booker quoted Galatians 6:7 from the New Testament — “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” — arguing that recent upticks in racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment are the product of hatred sowed by many.

He included President Trump among those who have sowed hatred, alluding to Trump’s 2017 remarks regarding deadly demonstrations by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., and this month’s widely condemned tweets about Baltimore.

“(Hatred) was sowed by those who draw equivalence between neo-Nazis and those who protest them,” Booker said. “It was sowed from the highest office in our land, where we see in tweets and rhetoric hateful words that ultimately endanger the lives of people in our country. People of color, immigrants, of us all.”

Calling for concrete steps to end gun violence, Booker advocated for federal licensing of guns as well as an assault weapons ban, but he added: “We’ve got to go further. We must require that the Department of Justice, Homeland Security and the FBI conduct assessments of the domestic terrorism threats that are posed by white supremacists.” He also urged the FBI to work with local law enforcement to identify and report hate crimes.

Booker went on to craft a hopeful message, lifting up the members of Emanuel, some of whom famously forgave the man who murdered their fellow congregants, as a prime example of love and civic grace.

“This is the story of this sanctuary, this church of faith and fellowship. Of the Bible verse that speaks to our civic gospel — that is said here in churches like this all across the country — that whenever two or three are gathered together, he is in the midst,” said Booker, who has a long history of speaking about faith.

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Source: Religion News Service