CHARLOTTE — Polly Sheppard is among five people who survived the Charleston church shooting in 2015 at the Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina. Nine others were killed.
Nearly seven years after the shooting, Sheppard will join civil rights organization, the National Action Network, at the South Carolina State House Wednesday, in a push for state senators to pass a hate crime bill named after the late Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
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Pinckney, also a former senator, was the pastor at Emanuel AME at the time of the shooting, and among the nine people killed by admitted white supremacist Dylann Roof.
If passed, anyone convicted under the Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act would face additional punishment, including an added fine of no more than $10,000 and additional imprisonment of up to five years.
“Being there, laying under the table with this gun to my head couldn’t be anything but hate,” Sheppard said.
“So I’m wondering why South Carolina has to be the last, almost the last to get a hate crime law? Because we didn’t have it. We had to go to the federal government for (Dylann Roof) to be charged with a hate crime. It makes no sense.”
South Carolina is one of two states in the U.S., including Wyoming, without a hate crime law.
The Hate Crimes Act was passed in the House but currently sits in the Senate.
“When (the shooting) happened, members of that same Senate got up and said wonderful things about Clementa Pinckney, the flag came down, and the hate crime bill was introduced shortly thereafter,” added the Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III, of the National Action Network. “Now these years later, nothing has happened.”
“I really can’t understand them standing against a law, but they can pass a law to kill somebody a firing squad. They can take that to the floor, but they can’t bring the hate crime law to the floor,” Sheppard added. “What’s the problem? It’s the right thing to do.”
Channel 9 tried to contact Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey for comment but did not get a reply by late Tuesday afternoon.
Massey previously told reporters that given the way the bill is currently drafted, it doesn’t do anything to protect anyone.
He added federal hate crimes laws were enough to prosecute Dylann Roof.
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