An online manifesto purportedly written by the white suspect in last week's murder of nine black worshipers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, said Dylann Roof learned about "brutal black on white murders" from the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC), an organization described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a white supremacist group that "oppose[s] all efforts to mix the races of mankind."
On the website lastrhodesian.com, which Al Jazeera determined was registered to Roof on Feb. 9, 2015, Roof apparently wrote that he entered the terms “black on White crime” in a Google search and came upon the CofCC website after trying determine what the "big deal" was behind the media coverage of the Trayvon Martin case.
"The first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens. There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders," Roof wrote. "I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong. How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on White murders got ignored?"
The website of the group, which is based in St. Louis, Missouri, currently features a blog roll of news featuring stories about "the extent of black-on-white crime." On its website, the CofCC said that it was "deeply saddened" by the killings in Charleston, calling the shooting "devastating."
Earl Holt III, CofCC’s president, said in a statement on the website that it was "not surprising" that Roof credited his group's site "for his knowledge of black-on-white violent crime." However, Holt went on to state that "CofCC is hardly responsible for the actions of this deranged individual merely because he gleaned accurate information from our website."
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the CofCC as the "modern reincarnation of the old White Citizens Councils," which the SPLC says were formed to combat desegregation in schools in the South during the 1950s and 1960s. The SPLC said White Citizen’s Councils had a “veneer of civic respectability,” with members that included bankers, merchants, judges, newspaper editors and politicians.
SPLC said that after desegregation and a loss of membership in the White Citizen’s Councils, attorney and "longtime racist activist" Gordon Baum founded the CofCC in 1985. SPLC described CofCC as a "hate group that routinely denigrated blacks as 'genetically inferior,' complained about ‘Jewish power brokers,’ called LGBT people 'perverted sodomites' and accused immigrants of turning America into a 'slimy brown mass of glop.'"
As part of its "Statement of Principles," CofCC says it believes "the United States derives from and is an integral part of European civilization and the European people and that the American people and government should remain European in their composition and character." The groups says is also opposes the "massive immigration of non-European and non-Western peoples into the United States that threatens to transform our nation into a non-European majority in our lifetime."
The group gained national attention in early 1999, when it was revealed that former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., had given speeches to the group on multiple occasions.
Separately, media reports this week indicated that the current president of the CofCC donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican presidential candidates, including GOP hopefuls Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
Cruz told The New York Times on Sunday night that he would be returning $8,500 donated by Holt. A representative for Paul did not respond to requests for comment on the donations, according to the Times and the Guardian. Matthew Beynon, a spokesman for Santorum, said in an email to the Guardian, "Senator Santorum does not condone or respect racist or hateful comments of any kind."
Al Jazeera and wire services