Racism remains a “blight on society, United States President Barack Obama has said, in the wake of the killing of nine African-Americans in a South Carolina church.
Police are treating the killings at the church in Charleston on Wednesday night as a hate crime, the BBC reports.
Earlier, the murder suspect, Dylann Roof, 21, appeared in court to face charges.
He showed no emotion as relatives of the victims addressed him directly. “I forgive you”, said one victim’s daughter, fighting back tears.
Speaking in San Francisco, Mr. Obama said: “The apparent motivations of the shooter remind us that racism remains a blight that we have to combat together.
“We have made great progress, but we have to be vigilant because it still lingers.
“And when it’s poisoning the minds of young people, it betrays our ideals and tears our democracy apart.”
But the President praised the families of the victims for the forgiveness they had shown.
He said it was “an expression of faith that is unimaginable but that reflects the goodness of the American people.”
Obama also called for a new debate on gun control, and pushed Congress to follow public opinion.
“It’s not enough for us to express sympathy; we have to take action,” he said.
A previous proposed bill banning assault weapons failed to win backing in the Senate.
At a Charleston sports arena, thousands gathered on Friday evening to remember the victims with prayers. They joined hands to sing We Shall Overcome.
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