Law­mak­ers mov­ing from Con­fed­er­ate row to grief


Law­mak­ers who agreed to con­sider re­mov­ing the Con­fed­er­ate flag from South Carolina’s State­house are now say­ing good­bye to a beloved black col­league whose death in a mass church shoot­ing has reignited de­bate about Civil War sym­bols in the South.

State Sen. Cle­menta Pinck­ney’s open cof­fin will be on dis­play in the State­house Ro­tunda on Wed­nes­day, of­fi­cials said. Af­ter sen­a­tors voted on Tues­day to hold a de­bate later this sum­mer on whether to re­move the flag, they gath­ered by Pinck­ney’s desk, still draped in black, and signed up for 30-minute shifts be­side his body so he wouldn’t be alone.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is sched­uled to de­liver the eu­logy at Pinck­ney’s fu­neral Fri­day morn­ing at the Col­lege of Charleston.

Gov. Nikki Ha­ley has called for mov­ing the Con­fed­er­ate flag to a mu­seum.

South Carolina’s ac­tion inspired other politi­cians around the South to swiftly tar­get the flag, a di­vi­sive sym­bol. Most said change is nec­es­sary af­ter the 21-year-old sus­pect in the shoot­ing of nine black church­go­ers ap­peared in pho­to­graphs bran­dish­ing the flag as a sym­bol of hate.

Dy­lann Roof, who faces mur­der and gun charges in the church at­tack, had told a friend he was plan­ning to do some­thing “for the white race.”

Mis­sis­sippi House Speaker Philip Gunn called for re­mov­ing the Con­fed­er­ate em­blem from the state flag. Vir­ginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe wants li­cense plates de­pict­ing the Con­fed­er­ate flag to be re­placed. U.S. Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell called for the re­moval of a statue of Con­fed­er­ate Pres­i­dent Jef­fer­son Davis from the Ken­tucky state Capi­tol’s ro­tunda.

Big busi­nesses also took ac­tion: Wal-Mart and eBay an­nounced they would no longer sell mer­chan­dise fea­tur­ing the Con­fed­er­ate flag, which eBay called a “con­tem­po­rary sym­bol of di­vi­sive­ness and racism.”

Out­side South Carolina’s State­house, hun­dreds chanted “Bring it down! Bring it down!”

Very few law­mak­ers rose to de­fend the flag, although some said they were sav­ing their speeches for what prom­ises to be an emo­tional de­bate later this sum­mer.

The Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flag was placed atop the State­house dome in 1961 for the 100th an­niver­sary of the be­gin­ning of the Civil War, and law­mak­ers de­cided to keep it there in 1962 in re­sponse to the civil rights move­ment. Af­ter mass protests, it was moved to a flag­pole next to a Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ment out front in 2000.

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