Protesters, politi­cians: take down Con­fed­er­ate flag

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Crowds of protesters and two prom­i­nent Repub­li­cans on Satur­day called for re­mov­ing the Con­fed­er­ate flag from the grounds of South Carolina State­house fol­low­ing a mas­sacre by a white gun­man at a his­tor­i­cally black church.

On Satur­day evening, a sub­stan­tial crowd ral­lied out­side the State­house, call­ing on of­fi­cials to take down the flag orig­i­nally flown by the pro-slav­ery South dur­ing the 1861-65 Amer­i­can Civil War.

“We must put that flag in

its place as a part of history,” said Sarah Lev­erette, a 95-year-old civil rights ac­tivist, who at­tended the protest.

Bring­ing it down, she added, means the nine peo­ple killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal on Wed­nes­day night, have not died in vain.

The Con­fed­er­ate flag has long been a di­vi­sive sym­bol in the United States and the two Repub­li­cans’ calls for its re­moval could sig­nal a shift in a coun­try where the vast ma­jor­ity of black Amer­i­cans vote Demo­cratic.

The man charged in Wed­nes­day’s nine killings, Dy­lann Storm Roof, 21, 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.

Con­tro­versy over the flag es­ca­lated fur­ther Thurs­day when Gov. Nikki Ha­ley or­dered the state and U.S. flags on at the State­house low­ered to half-staff for nine days to honor the dead.

The Con­fed­er­ate flag, how­ever didn’t move due to a 2000 com­pro­mise that saw the flag moved from the State­house dome to a mon­u­ment di­rectly in front; the flag can only be low­ered with ap­proval of the full Leg­is­la­ture.

On Satur­day, Repub­li­can South Carolina state Sen. Doug Bran­non said he would now in­tro­duce a bill to re­move the flag en­tirely.

“When my friend was as­sas­si­nated for be­ing noth­ing more than a black man, I de­cided it was time for that thing to be off the State­house grounds,” Bran­non said, re­fer­ring to one of the vic­tims, Rev. Cle­menta Pinck­ney, a state sen­a­tor who dou­bled as the church’s lead pas­tor.

“It’s not just a sym­bol of hate, it’s ac­tu­ally a sym­bol of pride in one’s ha­tred,” Bran­non said of the flag.

For­mer Mas­sachusetts gover­nor and 2012 pres­i­den­tial con­tender Mitt Rom­ney ex­pressed sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments Satur­day, in­creas­ing pres­sure on the 2016 Repub­li­can can­di­dates into stak­ing a po­si­tion on a con­tentious cul­tural is­sue.

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

Rom­ney’s state­ment prompted most of the Repub­li­can Party’s lead­ing pres­i­den­tial con­tenders to weigh in on fly­ing the Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flag, although few took a de­fin­i­tive po­si­tion one way or the other. Many in­stead ex­pressed per­sonal dis­like for the flag, but sug­gested it was up to the peo­ple of South Carolina to de­cide.

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.

AP

Mar­i­an­ge­les Borgh­ini holds a burned Con­fed­er­ate flag dur­ing a rally to take down the Con­fed­er­ate flag at the South Carolina State­house, Satur­day, June 20.

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