Sons of Confederate Veterans: Roof has been given 'race war he desired'
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - For the first time, we're hearing an official statement from one of the Confederate flag's largest support groups. The Sons of Confederate Veterans hosted a news conference under the flag on the State House grounds on Thursday.
Those who attended expected a Confederate flag debate and toward the end there were some exchanges. But the group started by saying they weren't there to debate the flag, where monuments should be placed, or the Civil War.
Commander Leland Summers started by talking about how tragic the shooting was and naming the victims who were murdered at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. He said the Sons of Confederate Veterans will grieve with their families.
"Attempting to use this horrible crime that occurred in Emanuel Baptist Church to remove - to remove historical markers and monuments and to deface them is despicable, shameful and disrespects them," he said.
"That flag did not start a race war," Summers said. "That idiot pulling a trigger on nine innocent people started a race war. Don't try to convince me otherwise, because that dog won't hunt."
Summers said he and the SCV members, which number more than 3,000 in the state, were grateful that a suspect had been caught in the Charleston case. Summers applauded law enforcement and said he hoped Roof gets "the just punishment he deserves."
"This wicked nutcase, that's a term we use here in the South, proclaimed that he wanted to start a race war," Summers said. "He is, this very day, getting what he wanted. We played right into his malicious hands. He has been given the race war he desired."
He said if Roof is able to have any contact with the outside world, the suspect would appreciate the debates and flag fight that followed the shooting.
"If he does, he laughs in our faces, bragging, saying 'look what I did,'" Summers said.
Summers said the Confederate flag has never "put a drop of hate" in his heart, but said the fight to bring it down was causing unnecessary waves amid the Charleston tragedy. He called those leading the push to bring down the flag "unscrupulous opportunists."
"Removing the monument wouldn't only dishonor white confederate veterans," he said. "It would dishonor black confederate veterans."
The Sons of Confederate Veterans has been vocal with their support for the Confederate flag in the past, but they said Thursday will be the last time they publicly speak on it until the nine victims have been buried.
Copyright 2015 WIS. All rights reserved. WHNS contributed to this report.