A Facebook picture may provide some insight into the political beliefs of Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old man who has been identified by authorities as the suspect in a shooting that left 9 people dead at a Charleston, South Carolina church on Wednesday evening.
Authorities are investigating the shooting as a hate crime. The Emanuel AME Church where the crime took place is a historically black congregation. Witnesses have reportedly said the killer declared he was there “to shoot black people.”
Roof was arrested on Thursday. Before he was taken into custody, the sheriff’s office in Berkeley County South Carolina sent out two photos of Roof including one from a Facebook profile that bears his name. The Facebook photo shows Roof wearing two patches that have been identified by many observers as the flags of Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa.
Both of these flags represent defunct African governments that had regimes controlled by white minorities. Both countries had racial segregation policies and as a result they are admired by many American white supremacists.
Rhodesia, which was located in what is now Zimbabwe, existed between 1965 and 1979. It was a former British colony, but the country’s white government unilaterally declared independence because the United Kingdom had a policy of not allowing its African territories to separate until they instituted systems that would ensure the black population would have a place in government. Rhodesia eventually came to an end after elections were held following a lengthy war between the government and guerilla forces.
During Rhodesia’s existence, the British government refused to recognise the country. The United Nations also imposed sanctions on Rhodesia in an effort to pressure the white government to step down. Some American Ku Klux Klan leaders publicly supported the Rhodesian government.
The flag of Rhodesia, which can be seen below, featured the country’s coat of arms. It includes the Zimbabwe bird, a national emblem based on sculptures found in the ancient ruins of the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe.
South Africa’s apartheid regime lasted from 1948 until 1994. Due to the brutal segregation in the country, it was also subject to international sanctions. The apartheid system was removed after the country’s first election where citizens of all races were allowed to participate.
Due to the fact much of the white population of South Africa is made up of Dutch Afrikaner settlers, the country’s apartheid era flag includes a background based on a Duthc historical flag. In the middle of the South African version there were three smaller flags including the Union Jack, to represent the former British colonies in the country, and two flags of former Dutch colonies. The apartheid-era flag is below.
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