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Charleston church massacre survivor calls for state hate crimes law

(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — The fight to pass the Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act in South Carolina is now intensifying, as several Republican state senators hold out against it. The state is one of only two in the U.S. that does not have hate crime legislation signed into law.

Pinckney, a state senator and pastor, was one of nine Black parishioners murdered by Dylann Roof in a shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015. Roof was sentenced to death in 2017 after being convicted on federal hate crime charges.

The proposed bill aims to enhance the sentencing and penalties under state law against perpetrators convicted of crimes proven to be fueled by hatred. The only other state without such a law in the books is Wyoming.

The bill has stalled in the state senate for months following objections from eight Republicans, including state Sens. Brian Adams and Larry Grooms, who represents the district where the shooting occurred.

The South Carolina Republican Party and the offices of Adams and Grooms did not immediately respond to requests for comment from ABC News.

Black lawmakers gathered in front of Republican Gov. Henry McMaster’s office inside the South Carolina State House on Wednesday to urge Republicans to allow the bill to be taken up for a debate on the Senate floor.

McMaster’s office did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

They played a two-minute video statement from Polly Shepard, a survivor of the massacre, who called out the Republican lawmakers by name.

“Eight members of the South Carolina Senate are giving a safe haven to hate. Everytime you look at Sen. Pinckney’s photograph, you should be reminded that hate killed him,” Sheppard said.

She pleaded with lawmakers: “Why are you holding up this bill? What is wrong with protecting us from hate crimes?”

Democratic state Sen. Mia McLeod slammed Republicans, telling reporters that “there is no appetite on the Republican side for conversations or remarks.”

State Rep. JA Moore, whose sister was among the nine shooting victims, told ABC News that he spoke with Adams after the press conference over his lack of support.

“No piece of legislation, no speech, no demonstration, no removal of any flag or monument is going to remove the type of hate that was in Dylann Roof’s heart when he shot and killed my sister and eight other parishioners,” Moore told ABC News.

He continued, “I’m a different person because of the hate that Dylann had in his heart for Black folks. But what this legislation will do is hold people accountable when they commit hateful actions.”

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