Following a massacre at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, a bipartisan mix of officials across the country is calling for the removal of Confederate flags and other symbols of the Confederacy from public places.
Here’s a look at what’s happening and what’s being proposed:
Lawmakers took the initial steps Tuesday toward removing the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds, a day after Republican Gov. Nikki Haley reversed course and called for the divisive symbol to come down. The flag has flown in front of the state Capitol for 15 years after being moved from atop the Statehouse dome. The momentum in South Carolina sparked further calls from politicians across the state and country for flags and Confederate symbols to be removed from public displays in other states.
Gov. Robert Bentley ordered the immediate removal Wednesday of four different Confederate banners, including the battle flag, from an 88 -foot-tall memorial that stands at the Capitol entrance nearest the governor’s office. Jefferson Davis, the lone president of the Confederacy, is said to have laid the cornerstone at a ceremony in 1886. Two nearby public high schools, now with nearly all-black student bodies, are named for Davis and Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate forces.
Leaders of the Republican-controlled state are divided on whether to alter the Mississippi flag, a corner of which is made up of the Confederate battle flag. U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker joined state House Speaker Philip Gunn on Wednesday in saying the emblem is offensive and must be removed. Mississippi voters voted 2-to-1 in 2001 to keep the flag. Gov. Phil Bryant has said he supports those election results. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said Tuesday that he thinks voters should decide on any changes.
The Commercial Dispatch newspaper in Columbus ran a front-page editorial Tuesday, saying that the state flag should change and that the Confederate symbol “represents a disgusting period of our history.” It was accompanied by an image of the flag with a black X drawn over it.
Republican U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that his state of Kentucky must remove a statue of Davis from the state Capitol’s rotunda. The statue stands a few paces from that of another native Kentuckian, Abraham Lincoln. McConnell noted that Davis moved to Mississippi, and Kentucky never officially joined the Confederacy. McConnell suggested a better place for the statue would be the Kentucky History Museum.
Republican Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers said Tuesday that he now favors removing the statue, as does the Republican nominee for governor, Matt Bevin. Democratic nominee Jack Conway, the state attorney general, said Wednesday that the statute should be moved to a museum. Earlier, he had said he agreed with Haley’s call to remove the battle flag but that he would have to think about whether to remove the Davis statue.
Gov. Larry Hogan’s press secretary says the Republican leader opposes the use of the Confederate flag on the state’s license plates.
Erin Montgomery said in an email Tuesday that Hogan’s office is working with the department of motor vehicles and the attorney general “to address this issue.”
A spokesman for Gov. Pat McCrory says the Republican plans to ask the General Assembly to pass a law that would discontinue the use of the Confederate flag on specialty license plates for the Confederate Veterans. Like those in other states, the plate features the group’s logo, which has the flag.
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers called for a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and an early leader in the Ku Klux Klan, to be removed from an alcove outside the Senate chambers at the Statehouse. The bust, inscribed with the words “Confederate States Army,” has been at the Capitol for decades.
Also, at a Tuesday news conference, Gov. Bill Haslam was asked about the state’s Sons of Confederate Veterans specialty license plate, with an image of the Confederate flag in the group’s logo. Haslam said he was unaware of the plate but would be in favor of discontinuing it.
The University of Texas president said Tuesday that the school will establish a panel of students, faculty and alumni to determine what to do with a statue of Confederacy President Jefferson Davis. Student leaders have asked to have it removed from campus. Earlier in the day, vandals sprayed graffiti on the pedestal to the century-old statue. An online petition recently was launched to have it removed and placed in a museum. But Davis’ great-great grandson, Bertram Hayes-Davis, says his ancestor was a statesman with a broad list of accomplishments who’s being unfairly demonized.
Also in Texas, the Supreme Court ruled last week that the state was within its rights to refuse to issue personalized license plates showing the Confederate flag. The court rejected a free-speech challenge. The Sons of Confederate Veterans had sought a Texas plate bearing its logo with the battle flag. Similar plates are issued by eight other states that were members of the Confederacy and by Maryland. In Virginia, McAuliffe cited this ruling in his call for banning the flag from plates in his state.
Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe is moving to have the Confederate flag banished from state license plates. He said Tuesday that he’s asked the state attorney general to take steps to reverse a 2002 federal court decision that said Virginia could not block the Sons of Confederate Veterans from displaying its logo — which includes the Confederate flag — on state license plates.
In the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, where each state gets to appoint two statues, Jefferson Davis stands as a representative of Mississippi — among several Confederate figures. The statues are selected by states, and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said that rule puts them out of his purview.
Nonetheless, “I think that it would be important that we look at some of the statues that are here,” Reid said.
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