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Clyburn: Five years after Charleston massacre, America is reexamining itself

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., speaks during a press conference to unveil policing reform legislation on June 8.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., speaks during a press conference to unveil policing reform legislation on June 8. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Wednesday marks five years since nine congregants were murdered in the basement of Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in an act of racial terror. That day, avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof walked into a bible study at “Mother Emanuel” and gunned down all but one of the attendees.

With those murders, Roof may have wanted to start a race war, but instead he launched “a reexamination of who and what we are as Americans,” said South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn during a conference call Monday morning.

Clyburn was joined by producers of the documentary film “Emanuel,” now streaming free on Starz online to commemorate the massacre’s fifth anniversary.

The movie, which is produced by Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis and NBA MVP Steph Curry, among others, was released June 17 last year and debuted on Starz in January.

The free release comes amid unrest and protests sparked by the killing of African American man George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Clyburn, the highest-ranking black leader in the House, described the reaction to the Charleston killings, drawing a contrast with the protests that erupted this spring around the country. “Nobody threw a brick, no businesses burned,” he recalled. “We came together.”

Clyburn is scheduled to join “Law and Order: SVU” actress Mariska Hargitay and other producers on Tuesday night for a virtual roundtable to discuss the film.

“It is different this time,” said Clyburn. “No question about it.”

“Emanuel” will be free online through June 23.

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