South Carolina mulls once unthinkable removal of Confederate flag

Gov. Nikki Haley's call to remove the flag from South Carolina State House grounds is sending ripples through the American South.

Jason Miczek/Reuters
The confederate battle flag flies at the South Carolina State House grounds in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday, before a protest asking for it to be removed.

Gov. Nikki Haley (R) called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House grounds Monday, a move that for 15 years was considered unthinkable, but that has become a point of discussion in the days since the Charleston church shooting.

Governor Haley ordered legislators to deal with the issue in a special session Tuesday, and said she would call them back to Columbia if they failed to do so. A rally to remove the flag will be held on State House grounds before their return.

As Harry Bruinius of The Christian Science Monitor reported:

The governor’s announcement Monday afternoon came relatively quickly after a growing chorus of critics, both in South Carolina and the nation, demanded its removal from the capitol after the massacre of nine black members of a historic congregation in Charleston last week. The confessed gunman, Dylann Roof, used the Confederate symbol to represent his murderous brand of white supremacy.

Haley said that while many South Carolinians “view the flag as a symbol of respect, inheritance, and duty” that does not reflect the state’s history of slavery or racism, for others the flag is “a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past.”

"The hate-filled murderer who massacred our brothers and sisters in Charleston has a sick and twisted view of the flag,” she said. “In no way does he reflect the people in our state who respect, and in many ways, revere it.”

To remove the flag, the South Carolina legislature requires a two-thirds majority vote, as stipulated by a 2000 compromise that permitted the flag to be displayed on a memorial near the State House. Adding the item to the agenda of Tuesday’s special session on the state budget will also require a two-thirds approval.

Haley’s remarks set off a chain of similar announcements in other parts of the south. Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn moved to take the Confederate emblem off the state flag, and Tennessee is seeing a bipartisan effort to remove a bust of Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest from its place outside the Senate chambers.

Wal-Mart also announced it would eliminate any products for sale in stores or online that feature the Confederate flag.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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