COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Spiritual leaders and community members gathered in front of the NAACP headquarters on First Avenue and lit nine candles for the nine victims. The NAACP Columbus Chapter says this tragic event brings spotlight to all hate crimes in America and it needs to be addressed.
The church shooting is now being investigated by the Department of Justice as a hate crime.
According to FBI statistics, nearly 2,300 hate crimes were directed against African-Americans in 2013. That number is down from about 2,600 in 2010 and the number of extreme-right hate groups, including white supremacists and anti-government groups, has increased since 2009.
Tonza Thomas, President of the NAACP of Columbus says "Even though we may be different colors we still can find a common denominator. And so we just have to learn how to be softened again and how to love again because that's what God is."
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports about 90 percent of hate crimes were violent and 60 percent are not reported to police.