South Carolina Senate Approves Anti-Flag Bill

Church Shooting Sparks Flag Debate

The South Carolina senate gave its final approval for the removal of the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds on Tuesday 7 July 2015. The governor and nearly all state senators support the removal, and petitioners have collected hundreds of thousands of signatures.

In a vote on the bill on Tuesday morning, 36 favoured removing the flag and three members supported flying the flag. The house of representatives also voted 93–13 in favour of the bill, sending it directly to the floor and bypass committee.

The house of representatives began debate last Wednesday on the bill to take down the flag. If the vote there is successful, the flag will be removed and stored in the state’s Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum. 

The use of the Confederate flag is emotionally debated as, for some, it symbolizes Southern heritage, and for many others, slavery and racism. The debate arose in the wake of last month’s shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a predominantly African-American church in South Carolina, which left nine dead. 

The shooter, 21-year-old white male, Dylann Roof, was arrested in North Carolina the day after the attack. After Roof’s arrest, a webpage surfaced containing a racist manifesto penned by Roof and 60 photos, many of which showed him with the Confederate flag.

Democratic Senator Joel Lourie said on Monday that “the alleged killer used that flag as a symbol of hatred and bigotry and racism … let today be the beginning of a story about a new South Carolina”. Lourie added that the passing of the bill could be “a story of how we removed a symbol that helped heal a nation and a state in their mourning”.

Governor Haley also called for the removal of the flag after the shooting; she praised the senate and attempted to appeal to members of the house after a preliminary vote on Monday. “The South Carolina state today rose to this historic occasion … coming together in the spirit of unity and healing that is binding our state back together and moving us forward in the right direction.”

The bill, if passed, will permanently remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds where it has flown since 1962.

This article first appeared in Issue 15, 2015.
Posted 11:28am Sunday 12th July 2015 by Oliver Gaskell.