South Carolina's legislature has support to remove Confederate flag

A poll of lawmakers determined that both the South Carolina House and Senate has achieved the two-thirds majority needed to take the flag down. 

Bruce Smith/AP
Supporters of keeping the Confederate battle flag flying at a Confederate monument at the South Carolina Statehouse wave flags during a rally in front of the statehouse in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday, June 27, 2015.

After nearly two weeks of upheaval revolving around the Confederate battle flag, the majority of South Carolina lawmakers wish to remove it from the grounds of the state house.

In response to a poll administered by Charleston's Post and Courier, 32 senators and 83 House members said the flag should be taken down, reaching the two-thirds majority needed for its removal.

“It’s causing too many problems,” Rep. Mike Forrester (R) of Spartanburg told the Post and Courier. “I think it needs to be in a place of honor, but probably not on the state house grounds. 

South Carolina lawmakers are slated to convene on July 6 to discuss the issue and consider proposals for the flag’s removal.

The Civil War-era flag has sparked a national outcry over its divisive roots after a violent June 17 attack in which nine black parishioners at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston were gunned down. Police have charged a white 21-year-old, Dylann Roof with the crimes. Mr. Roof had posted photos of himself flaunting the flag on a site called The Last Rhodesian, which immediately surfaced online following the shooting. 

Within days after the incident, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN the flag isn’t to blame for Roof’s actions. “It’s him,” he said. “Not the flag.” A week later, he said he saw the flag as a “road block” for his state, siding with Gov. Nikki Haley as she called for the flag’s removal from the Capitol grounds.

Since then, several celebrities, major corporations and politicians have denounced the flag and other Confederate iconography. President Obama called it "a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation” during the funeral for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the slain pastor of the AME Church. 

On Saturday, two North Carolina women unhooked the Confederate flag from the flagpole on the north side of the South Carolina Statehouse and were charged for defacing a monument, according to a Department of Public Safety statement. Both have since been released on bail.

The flag was placed atop the state house dome in 1961, as part of a series of gestures on behalf of Southern politicians rejecting integration and the civil rights movement, according to Yale Law School’s James Forman, Jr. In 2000, black lawmakers and the majority Republicans reached a compromise and moved it to a flagpole next to a Confederate monument near the Capitol, The Post and Courier reported. The agreement also required that a two-thirds majority was needed to move the flag.

Now that time may have come. But not everyone is pleased.

The Ku Klux Klan is holding a rally at the Statehouse next month to protest the flag’s removal. The Statehouse offers rally space if it’s available, regardless of the occasion. Yet Gov. Nikki Haley criticized the white supremacist group in a statement issued by her press office. “This is our state, and they are not welcome,” she said.

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