Politics took a pause – albeit briefly – as lawmakers from Capitol Hill to the presidential campaign trail adjusted plans and schedules to express their grief over the deadly shooting inside Charleston’s historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush canceled a town hall-style meeting planned for Thursday at the Charleston Maritime Center, about a half-mile from the church.
“Columba and I mourn today with the Emanuel AME Church and the families of the victims of this terrible crime,” Bush said in a statement. “Our hearts are broken at the senseless loss of life. Our prayers are for the community that has lost its pastor and a brave leader.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, also a Republican presidential candidate, canceled campaign events in New Hampshire and Philadelphia and returned to the state. Republican South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott shifted his Thursday events in Washington to return to Charleston.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had held an event earlier Wednesday in nearby North Charleston, site of a deadly police shooting in April. South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, Emanuel AME’s pastor and one of the shooting victims, reportedly had attended the Clinton event.
“Heartbreaking news from Charleston – my thoughts and prayers are with you all,” Clinton said in a statement afterward.
In Washington, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz canceled a Thursday appearance at a Washington news breakfast in the wake of Wednesday night’s massacre.
President Barack Obama kept his schedule, leaving for political fundraisers in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills after making a statement at the White House.
“Any death of this sort is a tragedy. Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy,” Obama said. “There is something particularly heartbreaking about a death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship.”
Some Republican presidential candidates also kept their schedules, attending a meeting of religious conservatives in Washington.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas asked for a moment of silence at the beginning of his remarks before the Faith & Freedom Coalition, then launched into his pitch. “It’s a new morning,” he said.
Elsewhere in Washington, as members of Congress prayed on a grassy front outside the Senate chamber, Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, and other lawmakers held a rally nearby about worker’s pensions.
His campaign later announced that Sanders postponed a planned trip to Charleston Sunday.
“This senseless violence fills me with outrage, disgust and a deep, deep sadness,” Sanders said in a statement.