Heartbreaking scenes as mourners bury victims of race-hate church massacre

Throngs of mourners gathered Thursday morning at a South Carolina church for the first funeral for victims of the Charleston massacre, followed by an emotional burial ceremony where some family members gave the Black Power salute over a slain grandmother’s coffin.

The first funeral was for 70-year-old Ethel Lance, a Charleston native who had been a member of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where the shooting occurred June 17, for most of her life.

She served as a sexton at the church for the last five years, helping to keep the historic building clean, and she loved gospel music.

The ceremony came as relatives of Dylann Roof, who has been charged with murdering Lance and eight others in the church, released a statement offering their condolences to the victims’ families.

‘We would like to take this time to reflect on the victims and give their families time to grieve,’ the statement said, according to USA Today. ‘We feel it would be inappropriate to say anything at this time other than that we are truly sorry for their loss.’

It continued: ‘We ask that right now, care and attention and support be given to the grieving family members of the victims.’

Lance had five children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

‘She can be a symbol for love,’ said grandson Brandon Risher, one of several grandchildren to speak. ‘Hate is powerful but love is more powerful.’

People dabbed at their eyes with handkerchiefs and batted at the muggy air with cardboard fans handed out at the door. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, Mayor Joe Riley and Gov. Nikki Haley and US. Rep. Mark Sanford attended.

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