Alabama low­ers Con­fed­er­ate flag af­ter mas­sacre

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY ROBERT MACPHER­SON

The Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flag was taken down Wed­nes­day out­side Alabama’s state leg­is­la­ture as Amer­i­cans in­creas­ingly shun the Civil War-era sym­bol af­ter the Charleston church mas­sacre.

Two work­ers were seen qui­etly and quickly low­er­ing the flag that has long flown along­side a Con­fed­er­ate war me­mo­rial on the state Capi­tol grounds in Mont­gomery.

Its re­moval was “par­tially” in re­sponse to last Wed­nes­day’s al­legedly racially mo­ti­vated killings in South Carolina, Alabama’s Gover­nor Robert Bent­ley said.

“We are fac­ing some ma­jor is­sues in this state re­gard­ing the bud­get and other mat­ters that we need to deal with,” the Repub­li­can gover­nor told lo­cal media.

“This had the po­ten­tial to be­come a ma­jor dis­trac­tion as we go for­ward. I have taxes to raise, we have work to do and it was my de­ci­sion that the flag needed to come down.”

Last Wed­nes­day’s slay­ing of nine African Amer­i­cans dur­ing bi­ble study at the his­toric Emanuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church in Charleston by a young white male has rekin­dled con­tro­versy over the flag.

Dy­lann Roof, 21, charged with mul­ti­ple counts of mur­der, has been seen in pho­to­graphs bran­dish­ing the flag, which some honor as a sym­bol of South­ern her­itage but oth­ers de­nounce as an em­blem of white supremacy and hate.

One of the vic­tims, chief pas­tor Cle­menta Pinck­ney, lay in state in a cof­fin at the South Carolina leg­is­la­ture in the state cap­i­tal Columbia, where he served for 15 years as a sen­a­tor.

His fu­neral — where Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is to de­liver the eu­logy — is set for Fri­day in Charleston.

Mourn­ers passed through solemnly as state troop­ers in white gloves and broad-brimmed cam­paign hats stood guard by Pinck­ney’s open cof­fin, which ar­rived at the State House on a horse-drawn car­riage.

Pres­sure is mount­ing in South Carolina to take down the Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flag that flies on the front lawn of its State House in Columbia as part of a Con­fed­er­ate war me­mo­rial.

‘False im­pres­sion’

Gover­nor Nikki Ha­ley, a Repub­li­can, said Mon­day it was time to move the flag, a point of fric­tion in the state for years — but do­ing so, by law, would re­quire a de­ci­sion of the state leg­is­la­ture.

Un­like the U.S. and state flags, the Con­fed­er­ate ban­ner was not low­ered to half-staff in the wake of the Charleston killings.

Ma­jor U. S. re­tail­ers, led by Wal­mart and Ama­zon, have said they will no longer sell Con­fed­er­ate flags, and the Mid-At­lantic state of Vir­ginia said it would phase out Con­fed­er­ate spe­cialty car li­cense plates.

Warner Broth­ers said it would no longer sell toy ver­sions of Gen­eral Lee, the red Dodge Charger mus­cle car from the 1970s hit TV se­ries “Dukes of Hazzard,” which has the flag painted on its roof.

And the NASCAR stock car rac­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion — whose events are wildly pop­u­lar in the South — came out in fa­vor of low­er­ing the flag at the South Carolina leg­is­la­ture.

Else­where, a move­ment to strip the Con­fed­er­ate em­blem from Mis­sis­sippi’s state flag picked up steam, with more than 50,000 peo­ple sign­ing an online pe­ti­tion for change and a con­ser­va­tive U.S. sen­a­tor voic­ing sup­port.

“Af­ter re­flec­tion and prayer, I now be­lieve our state flag should be put in a mu­seum and re­placed by one that is more uni­fy­ing to all Mis­sis­sip­pi­ans,” said Roger Wicker, one of Mis­sis­sippi’s two U.S. sen­a­tors.

As the de­scen­dant of Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers, Wicker said in a state­ment that he per­son­ally did not con­sider the state flag to be of­fen­sive.

“How­ever, it is clearer and clearer to me that many of my fel­low cit­i­zens feel dif­fer­ently and that our state flag in­creas­ingly por­trays a false im­pres­sion of our state to oth­ers,” he said.

In­creas­ingly iso­lated sup­port­ers of the flag turned to so­cial media to ar­gue their case, where some in- sisted the rain­bow pride flag of the gay rights move­ment ought to be banned at of­fi­cial venues.

Fu­neral ser­vices for the nine Charleston vic­tims are set to be­gin Thurs­day.

AP

(Above) State work­ers take down a Con­fed­er­ate na­tional flag, the third and fi­nal “Blood-stained Ban­ner,” on the grounds of the state Capi­tol in Mont­gomery, Alabama, Wed­nes­day, June 24.

(Right) South Carolina High­way Pa­trol honor guards stand over Sen. Cle­menta Pinck­ney’s body as mem­bers of the public file past in the State­house in Columbia, South Carolina, Wed­nes­day.

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