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Calls to Remove Confederate Battle Flag Resonate at Capitol

The flag flies outside the state capitol in Columbia, S.C. (Ben Raedle/Getty Images)
The flag flies outside the state capitol in Columbia, S.C. (Ben Raedle/Getty Images)

Monday’s avalanche of opposition to flying the Confederate battle flag on the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol rang throughout the nation’s Capitol as well.  

“The Confederate Battle Flag means different things to different people, but the fact that it continues to be a painful reminder of racial oppression to many suggests to me at least that it’s time to move beyond it, and that the time for a state to fly it has long since passed,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said. “There should be no confusion in anyone’s mind that as a people we’re united in our determination to put that part of our history behind us.”  

There’s still no shortage of symbols of the Old South on display, including at the Capitol itself. That includes prominent statues in the Statuary Hall collection honoring prominent leaders of the Confederacy, like President Jefferson Davis, and the Mississippi state flag, which includes part of the Confederate flag.  

But the tide seemed to shift quickly over the weekend and on Monday, after photos surfaced of the Confederate flag being waved by Dylann Roof, who police said murdered nine people last week at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.  

McConnell’s statement came shortly after Gov. Nikki Haley, R-S.C., wrapped up her remarks at the state Capitol, in which she said that while flying the Confederate Flag on private property would be respected, the time has come to take it down from the grounds of the Capitol.  

“In the worst of tragedies, we have seen the best of South Carolina. Today, I am urging that the Confederate Battle Flag be removed from statehouse grounds to an appropriate location,” said South Carolina’s senior GOP senator, Lindsey Graham. “After the tragic, hate-filled shooting in Charleston, it is only appropriate that we deal once and for all with the issue of the flag.”  

Graham and his Senate colleague Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican serving in the chamber (and only one of two overall), were among the lawmakers and other officials flanking Haley in a bipartisan show of unity.  

“I do not believe the vast majority of folks who support the flag have hate in their hearts. Their heritage is a part of our state’s history, and we should not ignore that. However, for so many others in our state, the flag represents pain and oppression. Because of that, as a life-long South Carolinian, as someone who loves this state and will never call anywhere else home, I believe it is time for the flag to come down,” Scott said in his own statement. “I hope the South Carolina General Assembly will move to this topic swiftly, so that our state can continue to move forward.”  

“Our legislators would do themselves and our state great proud if they would furl the ‘battle flag,’ place it in a museum so all South Carolinians can become unified around symbols in which all of us are invested and to which all of us can pledge allegiance,” House Minority Whip James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., said over the weekend, and Monday’s news puts the state on track to heed that call.  

Among the other Republicans appearing in support of Haley were Rep. Mark Sanford, a former governor, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. South Carolina is a key early primary state.  

“This flag has become too divisive and too hurtful for too many of our fellow Americans. While some say it represents different things to different people, there is no denying that it also represents serious divisions that must be mended in our society. For South Carolina, taking down this Confederate flag is a step in mending those divisions,” Priebus said. “Our future must be better than our past. We are not meant to be a country divided by racial tensions; we are meant to be a country that stands united.”


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