Charleston Shooting: Thousands of Mourners Join Hands to Remember Victims

PHOTO: Barbara Lloyd, of Charleston, S.C., cries as she joins hands with mourners during the singing of "We Shall Overcome" at a memorial service for the victims of the shooting at Emanuel AME Church, Friday, June 19, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. AP Photo/David Goldman
Barbara Lloyd, of Charleston, S.C., cries as she joins hands with mourners during the singing of "We Shall Overcome" at a memorial service for the victims of the shooting at Emanuel AME Church, Friday, June 19, 2015, in Charleston, S.C.

Thousands of people packed into a vigil Friday night to remember the nine people who were killed when a gunman opened fire on their Bible study group in a historic Charleston church.

Among the speakers at the TD Arena was Mayor Joseph Riley, who has previously denounced the shooting, allegedly by Dylann Roof, as "unfathomable."

"We don't want to live in a country where we need a bodyguard for Bible study," said Riley, who has been the mayor for 41 years. But he said the carnage "miserably failed" to tear the community apart.

Riley had a friendship with the church's beloved pastor, Clementa Pinckney, who was among the victims of the carnage, describing him as "very tall...deep voice...but he spoke quietly. Like he didn't want to overpower you."

"I took for granted he would always be there," said the mayor.

The city's forthcoming museum on African-American history will be dedicated to Rev. Pinckney as well as the other victims of the shooting, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lee Lance, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor and Susie Jackson.

Pinckney and his parishioners were holding the bible study class when the suspect came into Emanuel AME Church and sat down among them for an hour on Wednesday night. Then he opened fire, leaving the victims dead or mortally wounded.

According to an arrest warrant, he then stood over one of the survivors and made a "racially inflammatory statement" before leaving. He has been charged with nine counts of murder and one count of weapons possession.

At one point during the vigil, attended by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, the entire arena clapped in honor of the victims.

At the end, the mourners stood up, joined hands and sang "We Shall Overcome."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.