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Demand for removal of Confederate flag spreads

By George E. Curry/NNPA Editor-in-Chief
On July 7, 2015

Credit: Eyeliam/Creative Commons

(NNPA) – In what is quickly and unexpectedly gaining ground as a fitting memorial to the nine African Americans killed by a White supremacist, some of the most ardent defendants of the confederate flag are saying that it should no longer fly over the Capitol in South Carolina.

The most shocking news came when two-term Gov. Nikki Haley showed support for removing the flag from the Capitol grounds. 

Both pro- and anti-flag advocates reached a compromise in 2000, hoping to defuse a growing public debate. Under the agreement, state lawmakers voted to allow the U.S. and state flags to fly on the Statehouse dome in Columbia and move the Confederate flag to the top of a nearby memorial to Confederate soldiers.

They agreed that any future changes to the positioning of the flag, which is the first thing a visitor sees when approaching the Statehouse from the north on Main Street, would require a two-thirds vote of the legislature, a decision that is expected to be challenged in coming weeks.

Though unpopular in many quarters, some White politicians in the state have taken a bold stand against the flag.

“When it is so often used as a symbol of hate, of defiance to civil rights, to equal rights, equality among the races, a symbol used by the Klan, a symbol you saw at every protest during the times of integration and racial progress, then in front of the state Capitol, for those who harbor any of those kind of feelings – and I hope they are few – it nonetheless sends the wrong kind of message,” Joseph P. Riley, the mayor of Charleston, told The New York Times.

Haley, an Indian-American frequently touted as a possible GOP vice presidential candidate, reversed the stand she had taken throughout her political career in reaching that same conclusion. When she first ran for governor in 2010, she declared the Confederate flag issue had been “resolved to the best of its ability” with the compromise on the placement of the flag on Capitol grounds.

Seeking re-election in 2014, she said the flag was a non-issue for businesses considering whether to locate to South Carolina.

But the killing of nine Blacks in Emanuel A.M.E. Church changed all of that. Dylann Roof, an avowed White supremacist, has admitted to crashing a Bible study at the church and killing victims ages 26 to 87 in the hopes of starting a race war. In an online site, Roof, 21, is seen in numerous poses holding the Confederate flag.

Within hours of Haley’s announcement, Wal-mart, the nation’s largest retailer, disclosed that it is removing all Confederate flag-related items from its shelves, along with Amazon.com. Sears and K-mart are removing  the sale of such merchandise online by third parties.

Leland Summers, the South Carolina division commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, issued a strongly worded statement seeking to distance supporters of the flag from the murderer.

“Not knowing your heritage is ignorance,” said Summers. “It is shameful and disgraceful that other organizations chose to use this heinous act to promote their political agenda. Do not associate the cowardly actions of a racist to our Confederate Banner; for it is a Banner of honorable men, both Black and White. There is absolutely no link between the Charleston Massacre and the Confederate Memorial Banner. Don’t try to create one.”

NAACP President Cornell William Brooks disagrees.

“We cannot have the Confederate flag waving in the state capital,” said Brooks at a press conference in Charleston. “Some will assert that the Confederate flag is merely a symbol of years gone by, a symbol of heritage and not hate. But 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.”

Gov. Haley and the state’s two Republican Senators – Lindsey Graham, who is White and Tim Scott, who is Black – have concluded that it is time for the flag to come down.

“The fact that people are choosing to use it as a sign of hate is something we cannot stand,” said Haley. “The fact that it causes pain to so many is enough to move it from the Capitol grounds. It is, after all, a Capitol that belongs to all of us.”

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