WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of South Carolina’s Congressional delegation are supporting Gov. Nikki Haley’s call for the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from the grounds of the State Capitol.
In a Monday afternoon press conference in North Charleston, Haley called for the removal the flag because she said it has become a symbol of divisiveness. Haley issued her call for the flag’s removal in response to the June 17 shooting at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston that left nine people including the church’s pastor, State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, dead. The killings were carried out by Dylann Storm Roof, 21, of Eastover, who, after being taken into custody the next day, reportedly told investigators that he wanted to start a race war. Roof, who prior to the shooting posted photos on social media of himself holding a Confederate Battle Flag, is white, while all his victims were African-Americans.
Also calling for the flag’s removal are members of the state’s congressional delegation including US Sen Lindsey Graham who on Monday urged that it be relocated to “an appropriate location. After the tragic, hate-filled shooting in Charleston, it is only appropriate that we deal once and for all with the issue of the flag.”
In calling for the flag’s removal, Graham also praised the reaction of the victims’ families whose forgiveness of Roof he said exemplified all that is best in Christianity.
“The love and forgiveness displayed by the victims of this horrific, racially motivated shooting, along with all the people of Charleston, is an example to us all. The victims’ families and the parishioners of the Mother Emanuel AME Church reflect everything good about the Christian religion and the people of South Carolina.”
Graham concluded his statement by saying “I hope that, by removing the flag, we can take another step towards healing and recognition — and a sign that South Carolina is moving forward.
Another member of the state’s congressional delegation calling for the flag’s removal is US Sen. Tim Scott who drew attention to how the people of South Carolina have reacted in the aftermath of the shooting.
“Character is often revealed during our darkest days, and the world has learned much about South Carolina’s character since last week’s tragedy,” Scott said Monday. “The way our communities and state have come together, the way we have seen love overpower hate, kindness soothe our pain, and good will defeat hostility, is absolutely incredible.”
Scott pointed out that while the Confederate Battle Flag did not cause the shooting and that he does not believe most of its supporters are motivated by hatred, he does believe it is time for it to be removed from its current location.
“After the terrible tragedy at Mother Emanuel in Charleston last week, fueled by hate and racism, our hearts were broken While the Confederate battle flag did not cause this violent act, it is clear that our state and the people of South Carolina have reopened the debate on the flag.
“There is no doubt that South Carolina has a rich and complex history, and the Confederate battle flag is a part of that. The flag means many things to many people. I do not believe the vast majority of folks who support the flag have hate in their hearts. Their heritage is a part of our state’s history, and we should not ignore that.
“However, for so many others in our state, the flag represents pain and oppression.
“Because of that, as a life-long South Carolinian, as someone who loves this state and will never call anywhere else home, I believe it is time for the flag to come down.”
Scott said that he hoped that the SC General Assembly “will move to this topic swiftly, so that our state can continue to move forward. Following last week’s tragedy, South Carolina has been united as never before, and because of that love and hope, I have never been more proud to be from here.”
In his statement, Scott also called attention the families of the victims and the congregation of the Mother Emanuel AME Church.
“We continue to pray for the families of State Senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson and all of the members of Emanuel AME,’ Scott said. “Their strength, their dignity through these terrible times has been amazing. God bless them, and God bless the people of South Carolina.”
US House of Representatives Fifth District Rep. Mick Mulvaney whose district includes Union County also issued a statement calling for the flag’s removal, though expressing disappointment that so much attention has been focused on the flag rather than the victims, their families, and the reaction of their families.
“I would like to start by saying that I am disappointed that the conversation in South Carolina — largely driven by those outside our state — has been focused on a flag, rather than the victims of a heinous crime and their courageous and forgiving families,” Mulvaney said Tuesday. “While I always welcome debate on a divisive issue, I prefer that debate not come on the heels of a tragedy before the victims have even been laid to rest.
“In part because of those concerns, I will admit that I have not been as quick to call for the removal of the Confederate Flag from the State House grounds as some others,” he said. “I remember that the flag is where it is as the result of something that is becoming all too rare in politics: compromise. Indeed, moving the flag from the dome to the grounds in 2000 — and the concomitant establishment of the African-American monument — could be considered as a high point in South Carolina politics: a time when people got together and worked through their differences in a way that all could accept with pride.”
Mulvaney said his initial reaction to calls to “summarily remove the flag was that such an action would be tantamount to admitting what is not true for many South Carolinians: that the flag is a symbol of hate. Yes, it was for Dylann Roof. In fact, for him it was something even more evil than just hate. But we typically do not allow such people to define what our symbols mean.”
In recent days, however, Mulvaney said he has come to recognize that others have a different view of the flag than he does and that the flag has become a “distraction” and therefore a change is warranted.
“But in speaking with many people over the course of the last few days, it has become clear that the flag does in fact mean different things to different people in our state,” Mulvaney said. “And I blame myself for not listening closely enough to people who see the flag differently than I do. It is a poor reflection on me that it took the violent death of my former desk mate in the SC Senate, and eight others of the best the Charleston community had to offer, to open my eyes to that. And because of those very different — and very valid — impressions of what the flag represented, I admit that the flag has become a distraction: something that prevents us from talking about all that is good about South Carolina.
“It strikes me as particularly disappointing, for example, that we have spent more time talking about the flag for the last few days than we have talking about the extraordinary display of faith, love, and forgiveness shown by the families of the victims of the shooting in Charleston,” he said. “If the flag has become an excuse for people to ignore things like that, then perhaps time has come for a change.”
Mulvaney said he hopes that the SC General Assembly “can do the same thing now that they did 15 years ago: take the time and effort to fashion a compromise that removes the flag in a way that all South Carolinians can rally around with pride and respect — and with the sense of community that has been on display for the world to see in Charleston in the aftermath of last Wednesday evening. By doing that we will once again have the opportunity to show everyone what is special about our state. Maybe with the flag removed, people will listen.”
In concluding his statement, Mulvaney contrasted the situation in South Carolina with those in other parts of the country.
“Finally, I will say this: there is no Confederate flag flying at the state capitol in Missouri, yet Ferguson had race riots; there is no Confederate flag flying at the state capitol in Maryland, yet Baltimore had race riots,” Mulvaney said. “There is a Confederate flag flying on the grounds of the state capitol in South Carolina, yet Charleston set an example for the world to marvel at in its response to this atrocity. And of that, I am extraordinarily proud. Perhaps those who are now trying to focus attention on the flag are spending their time on the wrong things.”