Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Aug. 11, 2020

Linkedin Pinterest

Confederate flag sets off debate in GOP 2016 class

The Columbian
Published:

Charleston massacre reignites Confederate flag debate

By Jeff Wilkinson, The State (Columbia, S.C.) (TNS)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Twice a day, 21-year-old Chelsea Coleburn walks past the Confederate battle flag on the State House grounds as she makes her way to and from her Main Street apartment, classes on the University of South Carolina campus and her job there.

On Friday, 36 hours after Dylann Roof, a man her age with white supremacist leanings was charged with murder in the shootings of nine African-Americans in a black church in Charleston, Coleburn native said leaving the flag in front of the Capitol “is a disgrace.”

“It represents something that we used to be, something that was a failure,” Coleburn said. “It’s not who we are anymore.”

After the massacre at the Emanuel AME Church on Wednesday night, there are renewed calls for removal of the battle flag, which in 2000 was taken down from the Capitol dome. The flag had flown on the dome since 1962. A hard-fought compromise resulted in its relocation to behind a monument to Confederate dead at the intersection of Gervais and Main streets, arguably the most prominent intersection in South Carolina.

A renewed push for the flag’s removal has arisen quickly.

–The national NAACP again has called for it to come down.

–A national MoveOn.org petition had drawn nearly 150,000 signatures by 3 p.m. Friday.

-U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is running for president, said Friday that a return to the flag issue “would be fine with me.”

— It was widely noted on social media that while the state and U.S. flags were lowered to half staff to honor victims, the battle flag was not.

The Confederate battle flag is not a sovereign flag and is not used like other flags at the State House, said Sen. Larry Martin, the Republican chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee. The battle flag is considered a monument and, under the compromise, is not governed by the law dealing with other flags.

It would be difficult to fly the battle flag at half staff because it has no rope and pulley system as most flags do.

State Rep. Todd Rutherford, a Democrat, said he would pre-file a bill in December to remove the flag from the State House grounds. The House minority leader said he hopes that in light of a photograph of Roof posing with his car that has a Confederate flag license plate, the public will rally to remove it from the State House.

“Like Dr. Martin Luther King said in his letter from a Birmingham jail, when are good people going to step up and say enough is enough?” said Rutherford.

Republican state Rep. Doug Brannon said Saturday that he, too, plans to file a bill in the House to take down the flag.

Brannon, 54, a lawyer, said he held Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was the church’s pastor, in the highest regard. He said he began thinking about filing the bill after learning that Pinckney was among those killed.

“I had a friend who died on Wednesday night simply because he was a black man,” Brannon said.

“That flag is not just a symbol of hate – it is a symbol of pride in one’s hate,” Brannon said. “It should not be equated with the state of South Carolina in any way. It needs to come off of the capitol grounds, and we need to do it in honor of Senator Pinckney.”

Since word got out Friday that he was thinking about such a bill, he said he has gotten “about 8,000” communications via social media, email and phone. Nearly all were favorable, he said.

Some fellow Republicans have asked him if they could join him as a co-sponsor of his bill. But he told them it might be politically dangerous, Brannon said.

“I told each of them, ‘don’t co-sponsor the bill.’ The only political career I’m willing to ruin is mine,” Brannon said.

In November, a Winthrop University poll conducted for The State newspaper showed 61 percent of South Carolinians said the flag should continue to fly where it is, while 33 percent said it should not.

When broken down by race, three out of four whites – 73 percent – said the flag should continue flying, while 61 percent of blacks said it should come down.

University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides, whose campus flanks the State House grounds, stopped short of endorsing the flag’s removal Friday. He said the university would participate in any discussion of the issue after a period of mourning.

“Sometimes change does happen out of a tragedy,” said Pastides, who noted that the flag prevents the university from hosting an NCAA basketball regional tournament because of an NAACP boycott. “Sometimes, it takes a tragedy like this to provide movement.”

South Carolina is not the only former Confederate state to fly its symbols. The state flags of Georgia and Mississippi incorporate images of other Confederate flags.

WASHINGTON — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney called for the immediate removal of the Confederate battle flag from outside the South Carolina Statehouse, scrambling the 2016 Republican presidential contenders into staking a position on a contentious cultural issue.

Some still steered clear from the sensitive debate, even after the shooting deaths of nine people in a historic African-American church in Charleston further exposed the raw emotions about the flying the flag.

Many see the Confederate flag as “a symbol of racial hatred,” the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee tweeted on Saturday. “Remove it now to honor (hash)Charleston victims.”

Charleston massacre reignites Confederate flag debate

By Jeff Wilkinson, The State (Columbia, S.C.) (TNS)

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Twice a day, 21-year-old Chelsea Coleburn walks past the Confederate battle flag on the State House grounds as she makes her way to and from her Main Street apartment, classes on the University of South Carolina campus and her job there.

On Friday, 36 hours after Dylann Roof, a man her age with white supremacist leanings was charged with murder in the shootings of nine African-Americans in a black church in Charleston, Coleburn native said leaving the flag in front of the Capitol "is a disgrace."

"It represents something that we used to be, something that was a failure," Coleburn said. "It's not who we are anymore."

After the massacre at the Emanuel AME Church on Wednesday night, there are renewed calls for removal of the battle flag, which in 2000 was taken down from the Capitol dome. The flag had flown on the dome since 1962. A hard-fought compromise resulted in its relocation to behind a monument to Confederate dead at the intersection of Gervais and Main streets, arguably the most prominent intersection in South Carolina.

A renewed push for the flag's removal has arisen quickly.

--The national NAACP again has called for it to come down.

--A national MoveOn.org petition had drawn nearly 150,000 signatures by 3 p.m. Friday.

-U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is running for president, said Friday that a return to the flag issue "would be fine with me."

-- It was widely noted on social media that while the state and U.S. flags were lowered to half staff to honor victims, the battle flag was not.

The Confederate battle flag is not a sovereign flag and is not used like other flags at the State House, said Sen. Larry Martin, the Republican chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee. The battle flag is considered a monument and, under the compromise, is not governed by the law dealing with other flags.

It would be difficult to fly the battle flag at half staff because it has no rope and pulley system as most flags do.

State Rep. Todd Rutherford, a Democrat, said he would pre-file a bill in December to remove the flag from the State House grounds. The House minority leader said he hopes that in light of a photograph of Roof posing with his car that has a Confederate flag license plate, the public will rally to remove it from the State House.

"Like Dr. Martin Luther King said in his letter from a Birmingham jail, when are good people going to step up and say enough is enough?" said Rutherford.

Republican state Rep. Doug Brannon said Saturday that he, too, plans to file a bill in the House to take down the flag.

Brannon, 54, a lawyer, said he held Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was the church's pastor, in the highest regard. He said he began thinking about filing the bill after learning that Pinckney was among those killed.

"I had a friend who died on Wednesday night simply because he was a black man," Brannon said.

"That flag is not just a symbol of hate - it is a symbol of pride in one's hate," Brannon said. "It should not be equated with the state of South Carolina in any way. It needs to come off of the capitol grounds, and we need to do it in honor of Senator Pinckney."

Since word got out Friday that he was thinking about such a bill, he said he has gotten "about 8,000" communications via social media, email and phone. Nearly all were favorable, he said.

Some fellow Republicans have asked him if they could join him as a co-sponsor of his bill. But he told them it might be politically dangerous, Brannon said.

"I told each of them, 'don't co-sponsor the bill.' The only political career I'm willing to ruin is mine," Brannon said.

In November, a Winthrop University poll conducted for The State newspaper showed 61 percent of South Carolinians said the flag should continue to fly where it is, while 33 percent said it should not.

When broken down by race, three out of four whites - 73 percent - said the flag should continue flying, while 61 percent of blacks said it should come down.

University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides, whose campus flanks the State House grounds, stopped short of endorsing the flag's removal Friday. He said the university would participate in any discussion of the issue after a period of mourning.

"Sometimes change does happen out of a tragedy," said Pastides, who noted that the flag prevents the university from hosting an NCAA basketball regional tournament because of an NAACP boycott. "Sometimes, it takes a tragedy like this to provide movement."

South Carolina is not the only former Confederate state to fly its symbols. The state flags of Georgia and Mississippi incorporate images of other Confederate flags.

Romney joins President Barack Obama and civil rights leaders in calling for the flag to come down as the nation grapples with Wednesday’s murders. The man charged with the crimes, Dylann Storm Roof, held the Confederate flag in a photograph on a website and displayed the flags of defeated white-supremacist governments in Africa on his Facebook page.

So far, most of the Republican Party’s leading 2016 presidential contenders have been silent on flying the Stars and Bars.

South Carolina was the last state to fly the Confederate battle flag from its Capitol dome. A compromise in 2000 moved the flag to a 30-foot flagpole elsewhere on Statehouse grounds, where it has been flying at full staff.

The debate holds political risks for Republicans eager to win over South Carolina conservatives who support the display of the battle flag on public grounds. The state will host the nation’s third presidential primary contest in February, a critical contest in the 2016 race.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Saturday his position is clear: “In Florida we acted, moving the flag from the state grounds to a museum where it belonged,” he said in a statement provided to The Associated Press, referring to his 2001 order to remove the Confederate battle flag from atop the historic Old Capitol building.

“Following a period of mourning there will rightly be a discussion among leaders in the state about how South Carolina should move forward, and I’m confident they will do the right thing,” Bush said.

Former technology executive Carly Fiorina said she agrees the flag is a “symbol of racial hatred” yet declined to call for its removal, saying her “personal opinion is not what’s relevant here.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said the last thing the people of South Carolina need is “people from outside of the state coming in and dictating how they should resolve it,” Cruz said in a statement provided to The Associated Press.

He said he understands both sides of the debate — including those who see the flag as a symbol of “racial oppression and a history of slavery” and “those who want to remember the sacrifices of their ancestors and the traditions of their states — not the racial oppression, but the historical traditions.”

Both Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich ignored questions about the flag posed by reporters over the last 24 hours. Spokesmen for most of the other Republican presidential contenders also either ignored such questions or formally declined to comment. They include Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, businessman Donald Trump and Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.

Democrats have been more willing to offer their opinions.

A White House spokesman said Friday that Obama continues to believe the flag belongs in a museum. Democratic presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton has yet to address the issue this week, but in 2007 called for the flag’s removal, in part because the nation should unite under one banner while at war.

——

Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in Philadelphia and Lisa Lerer in Washington contributed to this report.

Loading...