Thousands of people gathered outside a large arena in Charleston, S.C., to pay respects to the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of Emanuel AME Church and a state senator who was gunned down last week along with eight fellow church members during a bible study session. President Obama will deliver the eulogy.
A hearse carrying Pinckney's body was accompanied by a somber procession as it made its way toward the venue of the funeral, due to begin at 11 a.m. Hundreds, led by the church's interim leader, the Rev. Norvel Goff, followed behind on foot.
Following last week's shooting, a white suspect, Dylann Roof was apprehended by police. Roof reportedly sat with the Bible study group at Emanuel AME for an hour before he suddenly stood up and opened fire. A website linked to Roof has since emerged, containing a racially intolerant manifesto and photos of the suspect posing with weapons and use of the symbols of Confederate rebellion.
The mass shooting has sparked a national conversation about race and the use Confederate iconography.
According to The Associated Press, admirers and acquaintances of Pinckney waited for hours to ensure a place inside the arena. Jacob Reid of Summerville was in line with his two teenage daughters. He said the family woke up at 4 a.m. to get ready and make the drive from Summerville.
"The Rev. Pinckney really inspired them," Jacob Reid, a resident of Summerville, told the AP, referring to his daughters. "He was a gentleman, easy to talk with. Very humble," he said.
Funerals for two others slain in last week's attack, Ethel Lance and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, were held Thursday amid tight security.