S.C. Confederate flag takes nasty turn with reports of death threats

After the South Carolina Senate nearly unanimously approved a bill to take down the Confederate flag flying at the Capitol yesterday, the bill is now in the hands of the state House of Representatives – where it could face greater opposition. 

John Bazemore/AP
A Confederate battle flag flies in front of the South Carolina statehouse Wednesday, in Columbia, S.C. The House is expected to debate a measure Wednesday that would remove the flag from the Capitol grounds.

The debate over the Confederate flag flying on the South Carolina State House grounds took a nasty turn Wednesday as legislators found themselves on the receiving end of threatening messages.

The State Law Enforcement Division is currently investigating multiple death threats sent to lawmakers as members of the South Carolina House of Representatives debate removal of the flag, Chief Mark Keel said Wednesday in a statement provided to The Associated Press. The chief did not reveal which lawmakers received the messages or which side of the debate they fell on.

On Tuesday, the South Carolina Senate voted 36-3 on a bill to take down the Confederate flag that flies at the State Capitol. The nearly unanimous decision came after the massacre of nine black churchgoers in Charleston last month. Dylann Roof, a self-identified white supremacist who was photographed holding the flag has been charged with the nine counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder.

Now, it’s the House’s turn: representatives begins debating the future of the flag on Wednesday. If they ultimately back the Senate bill to remove the flag and place it in a museum instead, it could be signed into law by Governor Nikki Haley by the end of the week.

However, it might not be that easy, as some House Republicans plan to offer amendments to the bill.

One, Mike Pitts, says that removing all Confederate flags from the Capitol would be like erasing history. He is proposing several amendments, including one to allow a popular vote to determine the fate of the flag, and another that would allow the flag to fly only on Confederate Memorial Day in May.

If the House decides to amend the bill, the Senate will either have to agree to the changes or attempt to resolve their differences in a conference committee, which could delay a final decision for weeks. If the two sides fail to reach an agreement, or the House rejects the Senate bill, it could be the end of the flag debate for this year.

The controversy surrounding the fate of the Confederate flag in South Carolina has spread all across the country, as citizens everywhere question where to draw the line between commemorating history and celebrating a symbol that 33% of Americans associate with racism.

The debate has also extended to statues of Confederate leaders and monuments dedicated to southern Civil War soldiers, and even to Civil War-themed mobile games containing images of the flag. 

This report includes material from the Associated Press. 

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