COLUMBIA, S.C. — Lawmakers in the state of South Carolina are set to consider whether to bring down the Confederate flag after nine people were killed in a shooting at a historic black church last month.
The state’s legislature returns Monday to discuss the budget and what to do with the U.S. Civil War rebel flag that has flown over some part of the Statehouse for more than 50 years. The massacre of black churchgoers in Charleston by a man police said was motivated by racial hatred and photographed holding Confederate flags and regalia has created consensus that the flag must be removed from the Statehouse entirely.
Several bills have been filed, but details like when to bring down the flag that currently flies on a pole by a monument to Confederate soldiers in front of the state capitol, whether to put another flag in its place and what kind of ceremony should mark the removal aren’t specified.
A survey of legislators by The Post and Courier newspaper, the South Carolina Press Association and The Associated Press asking lawmakers how they intend to vote after a call by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to remove the flag found at least 33 senators and 83 House members agreed with her, reaching the threshold of a two-thirds vote needed under the law to alter the flag’s position.
But not all lawmakers support the idea without some reservation. And there are powerful Republicans who have not said how they will vote.
There are a few voices for the flag. Republican State Senator Lee Bright is trying to raise money with Confederate flag bumper stickers with the message “keep your hands off my flag.” He also wants the state’s voters to decide whether the flag is moved.
“In South Carolina, we know what this flag symbolizes: resistance against a federal, centralized power that far overreached its constitutional limits. It proudly symbolizes states’ rights and constitutional liberties, which many have fought and died for,” Bright wrote in a statement on his website.
But plenty of lawmakers just want the flag gone entirely.
“This is not a time to talk about compromise,” said Democratic State Senator Gerald Malloy. “That flag pole should be replaced with some beautiful green grass.”