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Shooter Allegedly Influenced by Neo-Confederate Group with Texas Ties

Earl Holt III of Longview, Texas, serves as president of the Council of Conservative Citizens.

From Texas Standard

With the debate over the Confederate flag at the forefront of national news, many people are aligning with one of two sides: the flag as a symbol of heritage versus one of hate. The conversation is happening in the wake of a South Carolina church shooting in which nine African-American men and women lost their lives. The shooter, identified as Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white man, cites white supremacy groups as part of what motivated him for the killings.

The shooter’s motives were posted in his online manifesto, where photographs showed him next to a car with Confederate flag license plates, and where he wrote he was attempting to incite a race war. He says he was truly awakened to his beliefs by the website of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group led by Earl P. Holt of Longview, Texas, which traces its roots back to the desegregation era of the 1950s.

Amber Phillips, who has written about the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) for the Washington Post, says the group sprang up in opposition to the Supreme Court’s mandate to desegregate all public schools. The group eventually dissolved, but then experienced a resurgence in the late 1980s.

“People who were part of this council decided that there should be a new group promoting what professors who studied this called ‘neo-Confederate views,’” she says.

And what did these views include? That the Civil War was really fought over Christianity and that Southerners are of a different ancestry than those of the North.

“Many of the leaders of neo-Confederate groups, like the CCC, kind of spin the Bible to justify segregation and slavery,” she says.

Their connection to national and local politicians has been just as controversial. On top of Holt contributing tens of thousands of dollars to presidential candidates, Phillips’ reporting found that the group has been involved in almost every level of deep South politics, particularly in the ‘90s and early 2000s.

"It kind of flew under the radar until 1998 when national media revealed that Bob Barr, a Republican, addressed the group’s national convention,” she says. He had to publicly dispute these allegations and say he didn’t know what the group was all about. “But reporters started looking into it and found that this went from the lowest levels of politics to the highest levels of people in the deep South addressing these conventions.”

The appeal of such an old group to a young man may be striking. Phillips says that this is because after 9/11, the group became more radicalized.

“It became less and less a part of the national political scene, but more kind of an underground extreme radicalized group that someone like the Charleston shooter eventually found,” she says.


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