The racial firestorm incited by the Charleston church shooting last month has resulted in a swift decision regarding the state of South Carolina: the Senate has voted to remove the Confederate flag from Capitol grounds.
The South Carolina Senate reached the decision on Monday to take down the historical flag that has flown on Capitol grounds for more than 50 years. The final vote was 36-3 after the discussion and rejection of three amendments, including one that would replace the flag with an alternate Confederate banner.
In the House, Republicans look for a way to preserve this import symbol of America’s hisotry and to honor the memory of Southern ancestors. But after seeing photos of Dylann Roof using the flag to promote racial hatred, more than a few conservatives – including Governor Nikki Haley – believe taking the flag down is the right thing to do.
Former State Senator Clementa Pinckney’s widow Jennifer was invited to the floor just after the vote. Mr. Pinckney was one of the nine black people shot and killed by Dylann Roof last month at the Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston.
If the House agrees with the Senate, the Confederate flag will be removed from Capitol grounds and sent to South Carolina’s Confederate Relic Room for safekeeping. After a similar debate more than 10 years ago, the Confederate flag was removed from the Statehouse and set up near a memorial honoring Confederate soldiers (still on Capitol grounds).
Depending on the House’s decision, the flag could be taken down as early as this week. Although most House Republicans believe the flag must be taken down due to current racial problems and association with extremist groups, they hope that lawmakers will consider replacing it with another flag used by Confederate troops.
Rep. Mike Pitts has several ideas for replacement flags and thinks he can get the idea passed. His top choice would be the 1st South Carolina Volunteers regiment flag, a banner similar to the South Carolina state flag. According to Pitts, removing the flagpole entirely would erase an important part of our country’s history.
Minority Leader Todd Rutherford says that any change at all to the Senate’s bill is unacceptable in the eyes of the 46 Democrats in the 124-member House. According to Rutherford, any new flag “will be the new vestige of racism.”
It is expected that the House will be debating the bill today will several amendments considered.