28 October 2016
A demonstrator at the State House in Columbia, South Carolina, protests against the Confederate flag. Photo: Reuters
A demonstrator at the State House in Columbia, South Carolina, protests against the Confederate flag. Photo: Reuters

Battle over US Confederate flag spreads from South Carolina

An initiative to remove the US Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House grounds picked up steam a week after the massacre of nine black church members in Charleston, Reuters reported.

Criticism of the flag, long associated with slavery, spread to other southern states.

US retailers joined lawmakers in distancing themselves from the banner. Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. removed the images of the rebel flag from their stores and websites, joining Google Inc., Sears Holdings Corp. and eBay Inc.

The Civil War-era flag of the South’s pro-slavery Confederacy has become a lightning rod for outrage over the shootings in Charleston, which authorities say was motivated by racial hatred.

Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white man charged with nine counts of murder in the shooting at the church on Wednesday last week, had posed with a Confederate flag in photos posted online with a racist manifesto.

In Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, hundreds of people chanted “Take it down” while state lawmakers voted Tuesday to open debate on removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.

Just hours after politicians in several southern states began calling Monday for the removal of the Confederate flag, some of the country’s largest retailers announced they were halting sales of related merchandise.

One of the most prominent US flag makers, Valley Forge Flag, said Tuesday it would stop manufacturing and selling Confederate flags.

“We hope that this decision will show our support for those affected by the recent events in Charleston and, in some small way, help to foster racial unity and tolerance in our country,” the Pennsylvania-based company said.

In Mississippi, the state that still most prominently incorporates the “Stars and Bars” in its flag, House speaker Philip Gunn became the first Republican in state history to publicly support a flag change when he called the Confederate emblem “a point of offense that needs to be removed”.

Virginia, which was also part of the Confederacy, will no longer allow special vehicle license plates for the Sons of Confederate Veterans group that feature the flag, governor Terry McAuliffe said Tuesday.

Opponents of the flag consider it an emblem of slavery, racism and US xenophobia.

Supporters say it represents the South’s heritage and culture, as well as a memorial to Confederate casualties during the 1861-65 Civil War.

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