South Carolina church shooting reignites Confederate flag debate

Posted at 12:10 PM, Jun 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-22 16:39:17-04

The mass shooting deaths of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina last week opened another wound.

Americans were reminded — or learned for the first time — that a Confederate flag flies near the South Carolina state capitol in Columbia.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, on Monday called for the flag's removal.

“The events of this past week call upon us to look at this in a different way,” she said. “It’s time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds.”

South Carolina’s Confederate flag remains controversial. Until 2000, the flag flew from atop the South Carolina State House dome. Many southerners consider the Confederate battle flag a symbol of southern pride.

But to many, it’s a symbol of slavery and oppression. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the union in 1860.

On social media, many debated whether the flag should fly at half mast. With police calling the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting a hate crime, the flag could be ironic at either height.

Other former Confederate states incorporate the flag in some way. The Mississippi state flag includes the Confederate battle flag design.

Many southern states have made efforts to remove Confederate elements from their flags. Georgia, the last state to re-enter the union in 1870, scrubbed it from the state flag in 2003.

Texas decided against allowing a Confederate specialty license plate. The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld that decision, saying the rejection did not infringe on the free speech rights of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk.