As thousands of people lined up Friday morning in the heat Charleston, South Carolina, to celebrate the life of State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor who was killed with eight of his parishioners as they sat for a Bible study group last week, the city's mayor and other leaders praised the city for its spirit of love and forgiveness.
"This is a historic moment for the city," longtime Mayor Joe Riley told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program
, noting that President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, will all be in the city to mourn "as well as to help us focus on the future."
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Obama will deliver Pinckney's eulogy at Charleston's TD Arena, which holds a capacity crowd of 5,400 people. As those in attendance are expected to be much larger than that, the city's television stations are all airing the funeral proceedings live and many of Charleston's historic churches are opening their doors to allow mourners to observe the services.
And as for Dylann Storm Roof, the 21-year-old who hoped to start a race war by shooting the nine worshippers as they prayed in the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last week, that won't be happening, said Riley, who has been the mayor of Charleston for 39½
"This hateful person came here, he came from away," said the mayor. "He wasn't from Charleston. [He came] bringing hate and he created love. He brought division, he created unity."
Even the Confederate battle flag will be coming down at the statehouse as a result of the killings, said Riley, calling it "a very good thing" that's "long overdue."
"Right where we're sitting, 15 years ago I began a march and walked from here to Columbia to protest the flag above the state capitol," said Riley. "We got it off the dome. Then, unfortunately, the legislature didn't put it in the museum then, as we had urged. They put it on the state grounds. But it's very important.
"We need symbols in front of our capitol building for everybody ... and the Confederate battle flag is not a symbol for everybody."
State Rep. Todd Rutherford told the program that he spoke to the House speaker in his state on Thursday, and "we're going back into session the week after July 4. I hope by Friday that flag has come down."
Rutherford agreed with Riley that Roof "failed miserably," but now it's time to look to the future.
"Everything is in play now because we want to make sure that South Carolina is always seen in a light that is appropriate," he said. "We're all good people. We want the world to know this was a poor situation and [caused by] someone who does not represent South Carolina."
Riley said he believes his city has been a leader when it comes to racial unity and progress, including working to build the international African-American museum there.
"Most of the Africans that came to North America came here," said Riley. "We will build that museum and help understand. We don't know the history and it's the role of African-Americans in building our country."
Republican Rep. Mark Sanford
of South Carolina, also speaking on "Morning Joe" as it broadcast live outside the Emanuel AME church, commented that it has been "nothing other than inspirational" to see how the victims' families and the community at large has responded.
"It's been a remarkable procession of love," Sanford said. "It was interesting in the first funeral yesterday, one of the grandsons stood up and said 'hate is powerful. It's very, very powerful. Love is more powerful. Love is stronger.'"
Sanford remembered Pinckney as being a person with a voice "made for radio" and when he talked, "if he said it, it was like the voice of God."
The shootings, said Sanford, are a shock to "what is called the holy city. You see all the church steeples here; that something like this could happen in Charleston in this time in 2015. It just really shocked people to their core."
Rep. Jim Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, told the program that he believes the whole week has been "very, very constructive" for the country.
"The kind of hate that was perpetrated in this sanctuary little over a week ago has been driven out by the love of these fine families, this community, both its leadership as well as the rank and file," Clyburn said.
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Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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