S. Carolina gover­nor calls for rebel flag to come down

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

South Carolina’s gover­nor de­clared Mon­day that the Con­fed­er­ate flag should be re­moved from the State­house grounds as she ac­knowl­edged that its use as a sym­bol of ha­tred by the man ac­cused of killing nine black church mem­bers has made it too di­vi­sive to dis­play in such a public space.

Repub­li­can Gov. Nikki Ha­ley’s about-face comes just days af­ter author­i­ties charged Dy­lann Storm Roof, 21, with mur­der. The young white man ap­peared in photos wav­ing Con­fed­er­ate flags and burn­ing or des­e­crat­ing U.S. flags, and pur­port­edly wrote of fo­ment­ing racial vi­o­lence. Sur­vivors told po­lice he hurled racial in­sults dur­ing last Wed­nes­day’s at­tack.

“The mur­derer now locked up in Charleston said he hoped his ac­tions would start a race war. We have an op­por­tu­nity to show that not only was he wrong, but that just the op­po­site is hap­pen­ing,” she said, flanked by Democrats and Repub­li­cans, blacks and whites who joined her call.

“My hope is that by re­mov­ing a sym­bol that di­vides us, we can move our state for­ward in har­mony, and we can honor the nine blessed souls who are now in Heaven,” Ha­ley said.

The mas­sacre in­side the Emanuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church has sud­denly made re­mov­ing the flag -- long thought po­lit­i­cally im­pos­si­ble in South Carolina -- the goto po­si­tion, even for con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can politi­cians.

Sen­a­tors, Mayor Join Call

Ha­ley was flanked by U.S. Sen. Lind­sey Graham, now run­ning for pres­i­dent, as well as South Carolina’s ju­nior sen­a­tor, Tim Scott, and Demo­cratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cly­burn, both of whom are black. Within mo­ments, her call was echoed by the chair­man of the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell.

“The time has come for the Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flag to move from a public po­si­tion in front of the state capi­tol to a place of history -- the state mu­seum, the Con­fed­er­ate mu­seum,” said Charleston Mayor Joseph Ri­ley.

“The Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flag years and years ago was ap­pro­pri­ated as a sym­bol of hate,” Ri­ley said, say­ing it was used by racist groups and oth­ers op­posed to “equal­ity among the races.”

South Carolina Sen­a­tor Tim Scott agreed that the flag “rep­re­sents pain and op­pres­sion” for those who don’t sup­port it.

“It is time for the flag to come down,” said Scott, the first black Repub­li­can con­gress­man from the South since the Re­con­struc­tion era that fol­lowed the Civil War.

Pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates for the 2016 race have also added to the cho­rus of calls for re­mov­ing the flag.

“I hope that, by re­mov­ing the flag, we can take another step to­wards heal­ing and recog­ni­tion -- and a sign that South Carolina is mov­ing for­ward,” said Sen­a­tor Lind­sey Graham.

The gover­nor’s dec­la­ra­tions sparked ac­tion in other are­nas as well on Mon­day: Mis­sis­sippi House Speaker Philip Gunn called for the Con­fed­er­ate em­blem to be re­moved from the state flag, be­com­ing the first top-tier Repub­li­can to do so.

In Ten­nessee, both Democrats and Repub­li­cans called for the re­moval of a bust of Con­fed­er­ate gen­eral and early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bed­ford For­rest from an al­cove out­side the Se­nate’s cham­bers.

And Wal-Mart an­nounced Mon­day that it is re­mov­ing any items from its store shelves and web­site that fea­ture the Con­fed­er­ate flag.

Ha­ley urged the state’s Repub­li­can-led leg­is­la­ture to de­bate the is­sue no later than this sum­mer. If not, she said she will call a spe­cial ses­sion and force them to re­solve it. “I will use that au­thor­ity for the pur­pose of the leg­is­la­ture re­mov­ing the flag from the State­house grounds,” she said.

South Carolina House Mi­nor­ity Leader Todd Rutherford said he’s con­fi­dent af­ter talk­ing to mem­bers of both par­ties that the Con­fed­er­ate flag will be taken down within the next two months.

Law­mak­ers have pro­posed mov- ing it to the state-run Con­fed­er­ate Relic Room and Mil­i­tary Mu­seum.

Mak­ing any changes to the ban­ner re­quires a two-thirds su­per­ma­jor­ity in both houses of the South Carolina leg­is­la­ture un­der the terms of a 15-year-old deal that moved it from atop the State­house to a po­si­tion next to a mon­u­ment to Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers out front.

The last gover­nor who called for the flag’s re­moval, Repub­li­can David Beasley, was hounded out of of­fice in 1998 by the Sons of Con­fed­er­ate Vet­er­ans, ef­fec­tively end­ing his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

‘Our Con­fed­er­ate Ban­ner’

“Do not as­so­ciate the cow­ardly ac­tions of a racist to our Con­fed­er­ate Ban­ner,” the group’s South Carolina com­man­der, Le­land Sum­mers, said in a state­ment. “There is ab­so­lutely no link be­tween The Charleston Mas­sacre and The Con­fed­er­ate Me­mo­rial Ban­ner. Don’t try to cre­ate one.”

Ha­ley ac­knowl­edged there are very dif­fer­ent views about what it sym­bol­izes.

“For many peo­ple in our state, the flag stands for tra­di­tions that are noble,” she said. “The hate­filled mur­derer who mas­sa­cred our broth­ers and sis­ters in Charleston has a sick and twisted view of the flag. In no way does he re­flect the peo­ple in our state who re­spect, and in many ways, re­vere it.”

For many oth­ers, “the flag is a deeply of­fen­sive sym­bol of a bru­tally op­pres­sive past,” she said.

South Carolina can sur­vive and thrive “while still be­ing home to both of those view­points. We do not need to de­clare a win­ner and a loser,” she said. “This is a mo­ment in which we can say that the flag, while an in­te­gral part of our past, does not rep­re­sent the fu­ture of our great state.”

Only a few months have passed since Ha­ley, an In­dian-Amer­i­can, de­scribed an op­po­nent’s rally to bring down the flag as a cam­paign stunt. She claimed last year that busi­nesses weren’t both­ered de­spite con­tin­u­ing boy­cott de­mands by black groups.

“We re­ally fixed

all that,” she said, with her elec­tion as the state’s first fe­male and first mi­nor­ity gover­nor, and the elec­tion of Scott as the South’s first black U.S. sen­a­tor since the post-Civil War Re­con­struc­tion Era.

The day af­ter the shoot­ing, Ha­ley’s pos­ture had changed.

“We woke up to­day and the heart and soul of South Carolina was bro­ken,” she said.

The gover­nor’s an­nounce­ment came as civil rights groups planned days of marches and protests against the Con­fed­er­ate flag that Roof em­braced.

The Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flag was placed atop the State­house dome in the 1960s as an of­fi­cial protest of the civil rights move­ment. Af­ter mass protests, it was moved to the grounds in 2000, as part of a com- prom­ise be­tween a group of black law­mak­ers and the Repub­li­cans who have con­trolled South Carolina for a quar­ter-cen­tury.

That deal kept it fly­ing high since the shoot­ing, even as state and U.S. flags were low­ered to honor the vic­tims. It also means that when thou­sands of mourn­ers honor Emanuel’s slain se­nior pas­tor, state Sen. Cle­menta Pinck­ney, they will likely see the Con­fed­er­ate flag be­fore or af­ter fil­ing past his cof­fin in the State­house.

The White House said Pres­i­dent Barack Obama re­spects the state of South Carolina’s au­thor­ity to de­cide the is­sue, but be­lieves the flag be­longs in a mu­seum. Obama knew Pinck­ney per­son­ally, and plans to de­liver his eu­logy in Charleston on Fri­day.

AP/AFP

1. This un­dated im­age that ap­peared on Lastrhodesian.com, a web­site be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the FBI in con­nec­tion with Charleston, South Carolina, shoot­ing sus­pect Dy­lann Roof, shows Roof hold­ing a gun in his right hand and a Con­fed­er­ate flag in his left. 2. This un­dated photo taken from Lastrhodesian.com on Satur­day, June 20 shows Dy­lann Roof burn­ing a U.S. flag.

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