In the wake of a massacre at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, a bipartisan mix of officials across Southern states are calling for the removal of Confederate flags and other symbols of the Confederacy.
Here’s a look at what’s happening and what’s being proposed:
Republican Gov. Nikki Haley said Monday that the Confederate flag should be removed from the Statehouse grounds, reversing her position on the divisive symbol. Legislative leaders – Republican and Democrat, black and white – joined her for the announcement. The flag has flown in front of the state Capitol for 15 years after being moved from atop the Statehouse dome. Haley’s announcement sparked further calls from politicians across the state and country both for South Carolina’s flag to come down and for flags and Confederate symbols to be removed in other states.
Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn said Monday that the Confederate battle emblem is offensive and needs to be removed from the state flag. He said in a statement that remembering the past is important, “but that does not mean we must let it define us.” Mississippi voters decided by a 2-to-1 margin in 2001 to keep the state flag, which has a Confederate battle emblem in one of its corners.
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.
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 Confederate Veterans from displaying its logo – which includes the Confederate flag – on state license plates.
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas was within its rights to refuse to issue personalized license plates showing the Confederate flag. The court, in a 5-4 decision, rejected a challenge on the grounds of freedom of speech. 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 the state of Maryland. In Virginia, McAuliffe cited the Supreme Court’s Texas ruling in his call for banning the flag from plates in his state.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz says he wants to change the name of Robert E. Lee Park. Kamenetz says he directed county officials to start looking at changing it from the name of the Confederate general last month, and he issued a statement reiterating that point Monday, shortly after Haley’s announcement in South Carolina. A spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she supports changing the name and is willing to work with the county to find an appropriate new one.