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Friday, April 12, 2024

A hard look at symbols of Confederacy

Sample of the Sons of Confederate Veterans specialty Virginia state license plate in Richmond, Va. (Mark Gormus/Richmond Times Dispatch via AP)
Sample of the Sons of Confederate Veterans specialty Virginia state license plate in Richmond, Va.
(Mark Gormus/Richmond Times Dispatch via AP)

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.

Here’s a look at what’s happening and what’s being proposed:


South Carolina

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.



Republican U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that his state of Kentucky must remove a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from the state Capitol’s rotunda. The statue stands a few paces from that of another native Kentuckian, Abraham Lincoln. McConnell said Davis’ only connection to Kentucky is that was born there. 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. The Republican nominee for governor, Matt Bevin, also agrees. Democratic nominee Jack Conway, state attorney general, said he agreed with Haley’s call to remove the flag but said he would have to think about whether to remove the Davis statue.



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. House Speaker Philip Gunn said Monday that 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.


Washington, D.C.

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.



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.



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.



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.


North Carolina

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.



Rep. Alvin Holmes of Montgomery said Tuesday that the state should remove Confederate flags from the Alabama Capitol grounds. Holmes says he will file a legislative resolution to remove the flags, which surround an 88-foot tall Alabama Confederate Monument that was erected in 1898. Holmes led a successful fight in the 1990s to remove the Confederate flag from flying atop the Alabama Capitol dome. But the other flags remain on the grounds.



Gov. Larry Hogan’s press secretary says the Republican leader opposes the use of the Confederate flag on the state’s license plates.

In an email Tuesday, Erin Montgomery said Hogan’s office is working with the department of motor vehicles and the attorney general “to address this issue.”

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.


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