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Saturday, September 26, 2020

Rebel flags still fly in lots of places

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Confederate battle flags fly outside the museum at the Confederate Memorial Park in Mountain Creek, Ala.  (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Confederate battle flags fly outside the museum at the Confederate Memorial Park in Mountain Creek, Ala. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

The Confederate battle flag no longer flies at South Carolina’s Statehouse, now relegated to a room filled with other relics of the state’s secession. Other vestiges of the Civil War-era South are unlikely to vanish so soon.

Several states have taken or are considering action to remove the flag and other Confederate symbols and monuments since the massacre of nine people at a Bible study inside a black church; police have charged a man shown in pictures with the flag who they say was motivated by hate. It has been banished from Alabama’s Capitol and federal cemeteries, and Memphis officials are working to move the remains and a statue of slave trader and Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest out of a prominent park.

Still, the region is full of monuments to key players in the Confederacy and even the Ku Klux Klan. Confederate flags remain a common sight on license plates in the South, and the flag is a part of Mississippi’s own state flag. Georgia’s state flag is based on the national flag of the Confederacy known as the stars and bars.

The response in South Carolina and other states is encouraging after 15 years of no activity but was prompted only by a “massacre,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“We need a kind of mental cleansing down here,” Potok said. “It’s 150 years overdue.”

Large numbers of flag supporters, who say it symbolizes Southern heritage and history, remain. North Carolina sold out of its version of Confederate license plates when Gov. Pat McCrory said the state should stop selling them; no action has been taken yet to halt the sales. Sons of Confederate Veterans groups in states including Georgia and Virginia have pledged to fight to keep them.

Chad Haden, 34, of Braxton, Mississippi, said many flags have flown for nations that allowed slavery, including the U.S. flag. Haden said one of his ancestors fought for the Confederacy, and he does not want to see Mississippi’s flag change any more than he wanted the battle flag in South Carolina to come down.

“I’ve got to question the motive of it, of why they come after us? It’s like they’re trying to take one bad thing from us, slavery, and they ignore the progress that was made before the war. They try to make us the villain. I’ve got a question: Is it just a hatred of Southerners?”

Top Republicans in Mississippi, including the House speaker and both U.S. Senators, have pushed to follow South Carolina’s lead, though Gov. Phil Bryant has said he won’t call a special session to consider removing the battle flag from the state flag. He has pointed to a 2001 vote where supporters of the flag outnumbered opponents 2-to-1.

Bryant, his lieutenant governor and every member of the legislature are up for re-election this fall. Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, has called on Bryant to bring about change.

“It’s time to write the next chapter of our history,” he said Thursday.

Georgia’s state flag long resembled the Confederate stars and bars until 1956, when the design prominently incorporated the battle flag design removed from South Carolina. That was widely believed to be a protest to the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education that ordered the desegregation of schools.

In 2001, Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes signed a law ordering a new flag that prominently featured the state seal against a blue background; much smaller images of the older, Confederate-inspired flags of the past were shown beneath, above the words “In God We Trust.” That design lasted only until 2003, when Barnes lost re-election and his Republican successor signed a bill into law restoring the stars and bars-inspired design.

Other efforts to change the flag failed, including in 1993 when then-Gov. Zell Miller called the rebel emblem “the Confederacy’s most inflammatory symbol.”

Democratic state Sen. Vincent Fort, who is black, plans to introduce legislation to end Georgia’s commemoration of Confederate holidays, which are commonly observed by governments in the Deep South. However, many of his Republican counterparts in the GOP-dominated legislature and the governor have shown little appetite for taking up such issues.

“We will take our first bite at the elephant, and digest it one bite at a time,” Fort said last month.

In South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley made it a priority for lawmakers to pass legislation to take the flag down, reversing course from her 2014 campaign trail dismissal of Democratic challenger Vincent Sheheen’s call for its removal as a campaign stunt.

On Friday, she told NBC’s “Today” show it was crucial to remove a symbol considered an emblem of slavery by many, saying “no one should ever drive by the Statehouse and feel pain.”

Thousands watched an honor guard lower the flag and roll it up to be carried to the nearby Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, chanting “USA!” and singing “hey, hey, hey, goodbye.” Jubilant supporters of taking the flag down vastly outnumbered those who hoped it would remain, and the daughter of one of the women killed at the Charleston church struck an optimistic note.

“The tragedy was a tragedy. But now on the other side of that tragedy, we see a lot of positives coming out,” said Denise Quarles, whose mother, Myra Thompson, was among those killed June 17. “Maybe people will change their hearts.”

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Associated Press writer Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this report. Foody reported from Atlanta.

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Copyright © 2015 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright  © 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

7 thoughts on “Rebel flags still fly in lots of places”

  1. In politics, you can never change the hearts of some people, so you change the laws to save them from themselves especially when their hearts and passion are so high until they are totally blinded from seeing the other view. During this debate, very few opponents to taking down the flag even mentioned the 9 Souls who were massacred. They struck a deal that will move the flag down off the statehouse grounds and in exchange, build a multi-million dollar complex to house the flag and confederate memorabilia all at S.C. taxpayers expense(Very few news outlets reported on this..wonder why?). That’s no different than making Jews pay taxes to build and house a Nazi flag and memorabilia! Which means in essence, no real progress was made out of this. The Republicans of the state got a flag, flag pole and gate taken down valued at an estimated 8,000 dollars at most in exchange for making black taxpayers and whites who oppose this flag pay for a multi-million dollar venue and have the NAACP and NCAA drop it’s boycott protest. At the end of the day, the supporters of keeping the flag up should be dancing and celebrating in the streets because now they will have a grand place to celebrate and continue to support the symbol of hate, and more money flowing in the state to upkeep the statues and parks that commemorate this legacy we all are better off moving forward and leaving it in the past..who were the real winners and losers when all is said and done when you consider it took 9 innocent lives for the governor to even consider taking the flag down and now more taxpayer money to pay for a building that honors a cause that was actually treason and in support of slavery?

  2. i think the south got off lightly. Most other countries ruthless put down rebellions, and not let defeated rebels, fly their symbols on government buildings. Just ask any of the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka. Southern politicians were even able to get back in office, after reconstruction, viciously oppress former Black prisoners, of their concentration camps

    • The North flew the Stars and Stripes during the civil war, while supporting slavery there.
      The founding fathers all had slaves, so maybe the Stars and Stripes should come down also!
      It’s just ironic they are making a big deal over a Confederate Battle flag! Wall Mart won’t sell
      the flag, however they will sell the Nazi flag, so figure that out! All this is about is to keep
      the NAACP and black people happy, nothing more!. If this Confederate flag offends you,
      then you need a history lesson

    • i think you are a bigot!!!! the naacp is the most racist organization in the usa. i asked for help once from that racist org. years ago and was told because i was white they could not help me. so, clean up your own back yard.

    • So true. Letting them off the hook after the War was a mistake. We letter the German’s off as well , but there we made some attempt to de-nazify. In the south, we let them marginalize the ex-slaves and their children and then persecute them for another 100 yrs. It was shameful the way the slaves were essentially blamed for the War by Southerners. Making them haul down the flags of rebellion 150 yrs. after the war ended is not much to ask. Unfortunately, there are still way too many Southerners that still carry a chip around on their shoulders as regards that conflict. You lost, get over it already!

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