U.S. President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will attend the funeral of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the South Carolina state senator and pastor killed in last week's massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.
Obama is slated to deliver the eulogy, a White House official said this week. Live coverage of the funeral for Sen. Pinckney, will start at 11 a.m. EDT on Friday and will be made available online via PBS NewsHour.
The ceremony, which is open to the public, will be held at the TD Arena at the College of Charleston, which holds about 5,400 people, with an interment following at St. James AME Church of Marion. Police planned to close several streets around the college arena in downtown Charleston, and said they expect anyone who wants one of the more than 5,000 seats to be there by 9 a.m.
The Charleston community still reeling from the attack on Mother Emanuel AME Church, a historically African-American church with a significance that dates back nearly 200 years, on June 17. Nine people were killed, including three men and six women, when 21-year-old Dylann Roof opened fire after sitting with his victims for an hour during their weekly Bible study. Roof later admitted to police that he targeted his victims in an attempt to start a "race war."
"To say our thoughts and prayers are with them...doesn't say enough..to describe the anger and sadness we feel," a visibly shaken Obama said from the White House last week."Any death of this sort is a tragedy, any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy, [but] there is something particularly heartbreaking about death happening in a place which we seek solace, we seek peace, a place of worship."
"I've had to make statements like this too many times," he added. "Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times."
The president also said the shooting raised questions "about a dark part of our history" and called for stricter gun laws.
Married with two children, Pinckney was well-respected leader in his community who began preaching at 13. At 23 years old he became the youngest African-American in South Carolina history to be elected to the state legislature.
The public has been allowed to view Pinckney's body and casket at the State House in Columbia since Wednesday.
Reuters notes that several thousand turned out on Thursday evening for Pinckney's wake at Emanuel, the line of mourners stretching for three blocks, including 200 college fraternity brothers, friends, politicians and members of the public, both black and white.
Lutheran bishop Mike Rhyne, who drove down with his wife and three children from central Pennsylvania to pay tribute to his friend and fellow seminary student, told Reuters, "He was one of the best men I have ever met."