'Black Lives Matter': Graffiti appears on Confederate statue in Charleston

Vandalized memorial covered with tarp as city mourns church shooting victims

The statue before it was covered. (Photo: Phillip Weiss/Twitter)
The statue before it was covered. (Photo: Phillip Weiss/Twitter)

Graffiti that appeared on a Confederate memorial in Charleston, S.C., was covered up Sunday as the city continues to mourn the victims of last week's shooting massacre at a historic black church.

The inscription on the base of the statue — which honors the "Confederate Defenders of Charleston" who died at Fort Sumter — was covered in the red, spray-painted message, "Black Lives Matter."

"This is the problem," graffiti on another side of the memorial read. "#Racist."

Shortly after photos were posted to Twitter showing the vandalism, two men covered the base with a large blue tarp.

The memorial, erected in 1932 in Charleston's White Point Garden, stands less than 2 miles from Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where nine black people were killed by a white gunman Wednesday during a Bible study session.

The killings have reignited a national discussion on race and renewed the debate over the Confederate flag, which still flies atop a 30-foot pole outside South Carolina's state capitol building.

Slideshow: Hundreds protest Confederate flag in South Carolina

"The flag has to come down," NAACP President Cornell Brooks said Friday. "This was not merely a mass shooting, not merely a matter of gun violence. This was a racial hate crime, and must be confronted as such."

Police say the suspected shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, was driving a car that had an image of the Confederate flag emblazoned on the license plate when he was captured. Photos of Roof waving the flag have surfaced since his arrest.

Related: A battle over history in Charleston

"When we see that symbol lifted up as an emblem of hate, as a tool of hate, as an inspiration for hate, as an inspiration for violence — that symbol has to come down," Brooks said. "That symbol must be removed from our state capitol."

On Saturday, hundreds of protesters rallied outside the state capitol in Columbia calling for the flag to be taken down. Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney urged lawmakers to remove the flag out of respect for the church shooting victims, as did several current GOP candidates.

In St. Louis — where the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer in nearby Ferguson, Mo., sparked violent protests last year — signs of support for Charleston covered the base of a similar statue.