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The Confederate Flag: Heritage or Racism?
6/24/2015 3:07:10 PM

Zachary Gaither, 19, of Hanahan, SC, stands in front of the vandalized Confederate Defenders of Charleston Monument. Photo by Joel Woodhall

Rev. Nelson Rivers, III speaks during the June 22 press conference calling for the Confederate flag to be removed from the S.C. Statehouse grounds. Photo by Joel Woodhall
By Joel Woodhall

On Sunday morning, June 21st, photos surfaced on social media, showing the Confederate Defenders of Charleston Monument, located in downtown’s White Point Garden, vandalized with spray-paint. The monument now reads in red markings, “Black Lives Matter” and “This is the problem #Racist.”

Zachary Gaither, 19, of Hanahan, South Carolina, and his black and white friends, were among the people who helped a city official wrap the monument before police arrived.

“The Confederate flag, to me, is a sign of southern heritage and pride,” Gaither explained when asked why he was here trying to restore the monument. “If [the people who did this] wanted to stand out here with signs, that would be alright.”

He continued to express that vandalism isn’t the way to get their message across and that the monument is a historical piece of Charleston, that it doesn’t promote racism.

“Charleston is coming together with this tragedy. We’re here to support the city, not tear it apart.”

Gaither was upset that the monument was being defaced and people from out of town were here calling the monument a statue that promoted racism.

“This is my city,” Gaither said, while looking at the monument.

The Debate

The recent debate for removing the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds is heating up across the local area and nation, causing public figures such as HBO’s weekly news host John Oliver, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, 2012 Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham to weigh in.

John Oliver opened his weekly HBO show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, with a short segment, on bashing the Confederate battle flag. He reminded his viewers that the Confederate battle flag flew at full-staff, while the American flag and South Carolina state flag flew at half-staff, to honor the nine Charleston Church massacre victims.

“That’s right,” Oliver said. “The Confederate battle flag was flying at full staff in front of the states capitol, although, perhaps the bigger question is, why it was flying at any staff at all. The Confederate flag is one of those symbols that you really only see on t-shirts, belt buckles, and bumper stickers to help the rest of us identify the worst people in the world.”

Mitt Romney took to a 144 character Twitter post, saying, “Take down the #ConfederateFlag at the SC Capitol. To many, it is a symbol of racial hatred. Remove it now to honor #Charleston victims.”

In a statement, Jeb Bush released to the Associated Press, he stated, “In Florida, we acted, moving the flag from the state grounds to a museum where it belonged.”

Senator Lindsey Graham said in an interview with CNN earlier this week, “Well at the end of the day, it’s time for people in South Carolina to revisit that decision, [it] would be fine with me…But this is part of who we are.”

Call To Action

Tuesday, June 22nd, local politicians, community leaders, and religious leaders from the greater Charleston area, gathered at North Charleston City Hall, to call on state lawmakers, to have the Confederate battle flag removed from the Statehouse grounds. Their request is that the flag is put somewhere else so that it can serve in a historical context. More than 20 leaders were in attendance, to include Mayor Joe Riley and Mayor Keith Summey.

Rev. Nelson B Rivers, III, of Charity Missionary Baptist Church, spoke at the press conference as well. “The time has come, to remove this symbol of hate and division from our state capitol. The time has come for the general assembly to do, what have ought to have been done, a long time ago, which is to remove this symbol of division and even terrorism, that’s hung.”

Rivers called for the flag to be moved to a place of historical significance, so it is not in front of the state capitol or the citizens of South Carolina. Rivers expressed that this would be great way to honor those who were killed in the massacre last week.

“The time is right, the people are ready, and we need to act,” Rivers echoed.

Pictures have emerged, showing Dylann Roof, the gunman who took nine lives last week in the Charleston Church massacre, supporting the Confederate battle flag. Roof has allegedly said that he shot the victims to ‘start a race war.’

Mayor Riley spoke at the press conference, saying, “Take away Mr. roof’s symbol, a misguided idea of racial superiority and bigotry. Take it away from him, and all alike him.”

State Senator Marlon Kimpson, who is in favor of the removal of the flag, explained that it would take a 2/3 vote in the general assembly to have the flag removed.

Governor Nikki Haley also announced, Monday, that she supports the removal of the Confederate battle flag. “Today, we are here in a moment of unity in our state, without ill will, to say it is time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds.”

According to a statement issued to CNN on Monday, one of the world’s largest retail shopping centers, Wal-Mart, announced, that it too, would be no longer selling items that support the Confederate flag.

NAACP Vice-President Joseph Darby supports the removal of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds. Darby said he also respects that people have the right to cherish their history.

“I would encourage them to think about how wonderful it will be to have that history in a historic context. I encourage them to continue the private displays as well, in their homes, on their vehicles. I would encourage the display in their places of business as well, so that they could celebrate their heritage in a proper way,” Darby said, during the press conference.


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