Confederate Flag Debate Renews After Charleston AME Church Shooting

Confederate Flag Debate Renews After Charleston AME Church Shooting
222 – Columbia, South Carolina eyeliam / Flickr CC BY 2.0

The debate over the Confederate flag flying atop a flagpole outside the state capitol building in Columbia has reignited after last week’s shooting in a church in Charleston, where a white man opened fire at members of the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, killing nine, in what is suspected to be a hate crime.


In Charleston, a unity chain was held Sunday evening on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, which is named after a former state lawmaker who supported the Confederate battle flag.

Almost 1,500 people gathered at South Carolina’s statehouse yesterday, protesting against the flag that for numerous people is a symbol of hate and intolerance.

The license plate of the car that Dylann Roof, the gunman in the Charleston church shooting, was driving had an image of the Confederate flag etched on it. Since Roof’s arrest, photographs showing him waving the flag have come up, as reported by Yahoo News.

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Despite the heated debate, the flag can only be taken down if two-thirds of the state legislature votes in favor of the removal. Two Republican state senators showed their support, saying they will introduce bills for the same.

Some people, though, see the flag as a historic symbol that pays tribute to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the Civil War.

Randy Burbage, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said, “I had 57 Confederate relatives fight in the war. Sixteen of them didn’t come home. Sixteen came home missing an arm or leg. That’s what this flag is about to us.”

Although South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley ordered for the state flags to be flown at half-staff, the Confederate flag has not been moved.

According to ABC News, a spokesman for the governor said, “In South Carolina, the governor does not have legal authority to alter the flag. Only the General Assembly can do that.”

The debate over the Confederate flag has quickly generated political attention, and has become a significant issue. While Republicans like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have evaded taking a stance on the matter, former governor of Florida and a candidate for the 2015 Republican presidential nomination Jeb Bush has shown his support for taking down the flag, according to CNN.

Hillary Clinton has neither spoken for nor against the removal of the flag from the South Carolina Capitol complex, though she has urged Americans to discuss the racial divide that exists in the country.

It is not the first time the issue of the Confederate flag flying above state grounds has been brought into the limelight.

Don Doyle, a teacher of the U.S. history at the University of South Carolina, said, “In the year 2000, under tremendous pressure, the state legislature agreed to take it down from the dome, where it had been and to place it behind the Confederate monument.” He added that the flag came about as a response to the Civil Rights Movement, and was first put in place in the capitol complex in 1962.

Former Republican nominee Mitt Romney was amongst the sea of protestors demonstrating outside the state capitol in Columbia for the removal of the flag.

Romney’s stance was agreed upon by President Barack Obama.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said, “The president has said before he believes the Confederate flag belongs in a museum. That is still his position.”

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