US re­tail­ers pull Con­fed­er­ate flag af­ter church at­tack

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS - BY STEPHANIE GRIF­FITH

Wal­mart and Ama­zon will no longer stock mer­chan­dise bear­ing the Con­fed­er­ate flag af­ter the Charleston church mas­sacre, in a grow­ing move­ment against what crit­ics say is a sym­bol of racism in the Amer­i­can South.

The re­tail giants were joined by eBay, Sears and Kmart and fol­lows calls from South Carolina state gover­nor Nikki Ha­ley to re­move the con­tro­ver­sial flag from the grounds of the state cap­i­tal fol­low­ing protests at the week­end.

Civil rights ac­tivists have long pushed for the flag to be re­moved from of­fi­cial use and the de­bate has re­turned to the spotlight since last week’s killings by sus­pected white su­prem­a­cist gun­man Dy­lan Roof, who ap­pears in photos with the ban­ner on a web­site linked to his name.

Un­em­ployed loner Roof has been charged with nine counts of mur­der. All his vic­tims were black.

The bat­tle flag — a red rec­tan­gle marked with a blue cross em­bed­ded with white stars — is a pow­er­ful sym­bol of the proslav­ery South dur­ing the Amer­i­can Civil War. It is seen by some as a sym­bol of South­ern U.S. her­itage, but by oth­ers as a racist relic of a by­gone era.

Wal­mart, the world’s largest re­tailer and a sta­ple in the South, said it would re­move Con­fed­er­ate flag mer­chan­dise from its shelves as a mat­ter of re­spect.

“We never want to of­fend any­one with the prod­ucts that we of­fer,” Wal­mart spokesman Brian Nick said in a state­ment.

“We have taken steps to re­move all items pro­mot­ing the Con­fed­er­ate flag from our as­sort­ment, whether in our stores or on our web­site.”

The com­pany’s CEO Doug McMil­lon said in a tele­vi­sion in­ter- view that he had not even known that Wal­mart car­ried Con­fed­er­ate flag mer­chan­dise.

“We just don’t want to sell prod­ucts that make any­one feel un­com­fort­able and we felt like that was the case,” he said.

“This was the right thing to do.”

An Ama­zon com­pany of­fi­cial con­firmed to AFP it would re­move Con­fed­er­ate flag para­pher­na­lia from its site, but sev­eral re­lated items re­mained in its online store Tues­day.

Mean­while, U.S. news re­ports said that Civil War en­thu­si­asts — ap­par­ently wor­ried that they no longer will be able to easily get their hands on Con­fed­er­ate sym­bols — have been snap­ping up flags and other Con­fed­er­ate fla­gadorned mer­chan­dise online.

Prior to the an­nounce­ment by the com­pany of­fi­cial, sales of Ama­zon’s most pop­u­lar Con­fed­er­ate flags rock­eted by more than 3,600 per­cent in 24 hours, ac­cord­ing to the online re­tailer’s web­site.

‘ It shouldn’t fly’

Re­li­gious lead­ers, lo­cal of­fi­cials and politi­cians — in­clud­ing 2016 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial fron­trun­ner Hil­lary Clin­ton — joined calls for the re­moval of the flag from the grounds of South Carolina’s state cap­i­tal Columbia.

Clin­ton said the flag was a “sym­bol of our na­tion’s racist past that has no place in our na­tion’s present or fu­ture.”

“It shouldn’t fly there, shouldn’t fly any­where.”

Clin­ton also ap­plauded the de­ci­sion taken by re­tail­ers.

“To­day Ama­zon, eBay and Sears fol­lowed suit, and I urge all sellers to do the very same,” she said at a com­mu­nity meet­ing in Floris­sant, Mis­souri, not far from where po­lice shot dead an un­armed black teenager last year.

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Last Wed­nes­day’s at­tack at Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina was the worst on a U.S. place of wor­ship in decades and comes at a time of re­vived racial ten­sions in many parts of the United States.

A web­site linked to Roof fea­tures a ram­bling man­i­festo ap­par­ently writ­ten by him prior to the killings call­ing for a race war and fea­tures sev­eral im­ages of him with guns, burn­ing the U.S. flag and hold­ing the Con­fed­er­ate ban­ner.

His ar­rest war­rant al­leged he shot the six women and three men, aged 26 through 87, mul­ti­ple times and then stood over a sur­vivor to make a “racially in­flam­ma­tory” state­ment.

U. S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, who will de­liver the eu­logy at a fu­neral for Emanuel’s slain pas­tor Fri­day, has said the mas­sacre proves that the United States has yet to ex­or­cise its racist de­mons.

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