03:05 - Source: CNN
Emanuel AME holds first Sunday service since shooting
CNN —  

A leading activist in the Black Lives Matter movement said he found himself unintentionally seated beside Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum at the first Sunday service following last week’s Charleston Massacre.

Deray McKesson, an influential activist with a large social media presence, attended the service at Mother Emanuel AME Church to support the grieving community and to encourage the South Carolina legislature to take down the Confederate Flag. Santorum, who like most Republicans has not advocated for the removal of the flag, was also in attendance.

“It was random, honestly,” McKesson told CNN in a phone interview Monday. “A woman squeezed to make space and I didn’t realize who he was until (a friend) tweeted the picture.”

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#GoHomeDeray was one of the top trending topics on Twitter Sunday started by people who did not appreciate McKesson traveling to South Carolina to protest the flag.

“Hate is organized in America. And the hashtag is a reminder that this is true even in digital spaces,” he said.

Several photos have surfaced of Dylann Roof, who killed nine people at the church, posing with the flag that for many people celebrates slavery and represents racism against blacks.

Santorum told CNN the decision to remove the flag should be left up to South Carolinians.

“It’s an issue that South Carolina needs to deal with,” the former Pennsylvania senator said. “I don’t know all the complexities on how that was decided.”

The first Southern presidential primary is in South Carolina making winning it a top priority for GOP presidential candidates. Santorum finished third in the South Carolina Primary in 2012.

McKesson said Santorum didn’t have much to say after he told the candidate that he was a protestor.

“We spoke very generally about church, nothing about politics. I commented on the presence of police in the sanctuary,” he said. “He commented on this event bringing people together.”

McKesson traveled to South Carolina from Baltimore where he’d been involved in protesting acts of police brutality in the city.