Weeks after a gunman shot nine people in a racially fueled attack on Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME church, South Carolina lawmakers are set to debate whether to remove the Confederate battle flag from State House grounds, or leave it flying high.
The debate to remove the flag was sparked after photographs of accused AME gunman Dylann Roof holding the storied and hurtful reminder surfaced. Days after the shooting, Gov. Nikki R. Haley called for the flag’s removal.
In a weekend interview with NBC’s Today Show, Haley said the removal would be an action of respect.
“You always want to think that today is better than yesterday — that we’re growing as a state, we’re growing as a country. When something like this happens, you reflect, and you say: Have we changed enough?” she said.
“I don’t think this is going to be easy. I don’t think that it’s going to be painless, but I do think that it will be respectful, and that it will move swiftly.”
According to the New York Times, the State Senate, composed of other elected officials who stand with Haley, will consider a bipartisan proposal to remove the flag.
If the Senate approves the measure, the debate will shift to the House; Republicans control both chambers. A survey of lawmakers by The Associated Press, the South Carolina Press Association, and The Post and Courier, a newspaper in Charleston, found last month that there was most likely enough support in the legislature to approve the plan.
There are, however, dissenters, the Times points out.
“This flag is a part of our heritage, so the people of this state should have the final say,” Mr. Bright, a Republican of Spartanburg County, told supporters on Facebook on Wednesday. Mr. Bright, who sought the Republican nomination for a United States Senate seat last year, is also offering bumper stickers featuring the Confederate emblem and the message “Keep your hands off my flag” in exchange for campaign contributions.
A recent CNN poll echoes Bright’s sentiments — at least 57 percent of Americans see the flag as a symbol of Southern pride, not racism. But the flag, which flew high during a war fought to defend and justify slavery, dredges up the painful and horrific past of African-Americans in this country. On June 27, community organizer, activist, singer and North Carolina native Brittany “Bree” Newsome was arrested after she took it upon herself to scale the pole and remove the flag from State House grounds herself.
A two-thirds majority vote is needed in both chambers of the General Assembly to pass a removal of the flag, CNN notes.
SOURCE: CNN, NYT | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty
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