By Sheryl Estrada
South Carolina State House in Columbia. Photo: Shutterstock
Following South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s announcement on Monday calling for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from state grounds, the nation watchedas lawmakers took steps on Tuesday to consider its elimination.The hashtag#TakeItDown is trending on social media as demonstrators continue to rally outside the State House carrying signs with the same message.
The measure enabling South Carolinalawmakers to debate the flag removal later this summer passed the House by a vote of 103-10 and the Senate approved it with a voice vote.
In order to take down the Confederate battle flag from the capitol grounds, the measure will need a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers of the legislature. However, according toRep. James Clyburn, a Democrat,state legislature, with a simple majority, can vote to repeal that law.
He posted this message onTwitter:
Current SC law may require 2/3 vote to remove the Confed Battle flag but legislators could change that law w/ a simply majority. #takeitdown
James E. Clyburn (@Clyburn) June 21, 2015
Republican lawmakers, such asRep. Bill Chumley, are opposed to its removal.Chumley represents Spartanburg and is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He said the issue of the flag was decided in 2000 when it was placed in the war memorial position.
Chumley actually said in an interview with CNN, the nine Black church members in Charleston murdered by Dylann Roof have some accountability for what happened to them.
“These people sat in there and waited their turn to be shot,” he said. “Why didn’t somebody just do something I mean, you’ve got one skinny person shooting the gun.”
The Post and Courier began countingwhere lawmakers stand on the issue.
Roof’s use of the flag inphotos to perpetuate hate, has put a spotlight on all southern states, which utilize Confederate symbols in government.
Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn, a Republican, said Monday the Confederate battle flag emblem must be removed from the state’s official flag.
“We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us,” Gunn wrote in a Facebook post.”As a Christian, I believe our state’s flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed. We need to begin having conversations about changing Mississippi’s flag.”
This is the first instance of a Mississippi Republican elected official publicly calling for the removal of the emblem.
In contrast, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant remained in support of the flag as is.
“A vast majority of Mississippians voted to keep the state’s flag, and I don’t believe the Mississippi Legislature will act to supersede the will of the people on this issue,” he said in a statement.
Bryant is referring to a statewide referendum in April 2001. Mississippi voters decided by a 2-1 margin to keep the state flag design created in 1894. The new design did not include any homage to the Civil War relic.
“The main reasons cited by supporters of the old flag were its place in Mississippi history and pride in their Southern heritage,” according to the New York Times. “Several counties in the predominantly black Delta area voted heavily for the new design, while suburban counties and those in white rural areas provided the solid majority against it.”
Mississippi State Senator Kenny Jones, a Democrat and chairman of the state’s legislative Black caucus, said on Monday in order to gain support ahead of the next legislative session that starts in January, he and others would contemplate pre-filing a proposed law to change the flag.
“I think it’s time for the whole south, with all the progressive individuals that we have, to start having a dialogue where we put out the right message that goes out to the rest of the nation,” Jones said.
In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Tuesday that he is taking steps to have the Confederate battle flag removed from Virginia license plates.
“Although the battle flag is not flown here on Capitol Square, it has been the subject of considerable controversy, and it divides many of our people,” he said. “Even its display on state issued license tags is, in my view, unnecessarily divisive and hurtful to too many of our people.”
On June 18, The Supreme Court ruled that Texas is free to reject a proposed design by the Sons of Confederate Veterans that features the Confederate flag, saying that messages used on specialized license plates are a form of government speech.
The Tennessee statehouse currently houses a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general who was also elected the first “Grand Wizard”of the Ku Klux Klan. Gov. Bill Haslam says it should be removed.He said he would supportlegislation to remove the bust and flags.
“Forrest would not be my choice of one of the Tennesseans that we honor,”Haslam said.“I’ll be real clear about that. I think it’s appropriate to move the flag to museums and off of Tennessee symbols.”
Haslam also supports ending Tennessee license plates, which feature the Confederate battle flag.
The Tennessee state flag also includes Confederate symbols, as well as the state flags of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.