Sunday 30 April 2017

Confederate flag faces axe after Charleston massacre

Barbara Beeler sits on a bench as she protests against the Confederate flag at the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina. Photo: Reuters
Barbara Beeler sits on a bench as she protests against the Confederate flag at the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina. Photo: Reuters

South Carolina took a major step towards removing the Confederate flag from its position of honour in response to last month's massacre in a black church in Charleston.

Democrat and Republican state senators voted 37-3 in favour of removing the flag after a day of debate over whether it represents Southern history or modern hatred.

Opponents of the 'Stars and Bars' urged its removal in the hope that "out of horror can come healing", but supporters rallied around the flagpole and protested its removal as an attack on their heritage.

The bill faces one more vote in the state senate before being sent to the lower chamber where it is likely to meet opposition from some Republican representatives.

If the bill passes in the lower chamber, the flag could be removed from the grounds of the state capital this week.

The Confederate flag has long been used as a symbol by white supremacists and Dylann Roof, the alleged Charleston gunman, posed with it before the killings.

The flag was originally raised over the dome of the state capital in 1962 as a symbol of defiance against the civil rights movement and in opposition to calls for black equality.

In 2000, a compromise was brokered where it was removed from the dome and flown instead from a flag pole. But the Charleston massacre sparked a new and urgent debate across the US about banishing the flag from public life altogether.

Among the nine people killed was Clementa Pinckney, a pastor and Democrat state senator, and his colleagues took to the Senate floor to urge the removal of the flag.

"I believe that out of horror can come healing," said Vincent Sheheen, a Democrat senator and a friend of Reverend Pinckney's. "I believe that out of death can come redemption."

A number of Republicans who had once supported the flag said that the killings had changed their minds.

"I hate that it took a tragedy like this for me to really, fully understand it," said Larry Martin, a Republican senator. "But I do fully understand it"

If the bill achieves a two-thirds majority in both houses the flag will be taken down and put in a history museum. (©Daily Telegraph London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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