Removal of Confederate symbols spreads across states

Confederate flag debate collage

This story is courtesy of our sister station WTEN in Albany, NY.

(WTEN) – The recent terrorist attack by a self proclaimed white supremacist that killed nine black parishioners in a South Carolina church has renewed the debate over not only the confederate flag, but also the honoring of various figures from the Civil War and Reconstruction Era.

VIRGINIA

Governor Terry McAuliffe made moves to have the Confederate flag removed and banned from state license plates.

McAuliffe said he’s asked Attorney General Mark Herring 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.

At the same time, McAuliffe has asked his secretary of transportation to replace the plates depicting the flag.

McAuliffe called the Confederate flag “hurtful” to too many people. The governor went on to say that he “commends” South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, for the call to bring down the Confederate flag at the states capitol in Columbia, S.C.

MISSISSIPPI

The Republican speaker of the State House of Representatives said the Confederate emblem in the state’s official flag needs to be removed.

“We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us,” Gunn, a Clinton Republican, said in a statement. “As a Christian, I believe our state’s flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed. We need to begin having conversations about changing Mississippi’s flag.”

In 2001, a measure on the ballot made the flag with the confederate emblem the state’s official banner. That measure passed with more than 60 percent of the vote.

An online petition has since been started to remove the emblem from the flag.

The petition compares it to the swastika in Germany, which is a banned symbol in that country.

“Would you fly a Swastika in this country today knowing the atrocity that the Nazis brought upon the Jewish. Would we fly the flag of Al Qaeda today knowing that symbols actually matter,” says President Derrick Johnson of the Mississippi NAACP.

TENNESSEE

Lawmakers are pushing to remove the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state capitol.

Forrest was a Confederate general and “Grand Wizard” of the Klu Klux Klan.

Governor Bill Haslam said Tuesday that if it were up to him he would remove it.

The Tennessee Historical Commission, of which Governor Bill Haslam is a member, will ultimately make the decision on whether the bust will be removed.

However, at this time the issue is not on their agenda.

On Monday, Congressman Jim Cooper (R,TN-5) tweeted that the statue should be removed.

“Symbols of hate shouldn’t be promoted by government,” he said in part.

“The Nathan Bedford Forrest statue should have been removed from our state capitol a long time ago,” Mary Mancini, Tennessee Democratic Party Chair said.

For the statue to be removed, it would have to be voted on by the legislature.

“If I were a legislator, I would certainly move it, move it out,” state Republican Party Chair Ryan Haynes said.

Mancini added, “Yes, all symbols of hate and the Ku Klux Klan should be removed from our state capitol without a doubt.”

Another statue of Forrest sits on private property on the edge of Nashville that can be seen from Interstate 65.

Mayoral candidate Megan Barry has suggested planting trees around the statue to block it.

“While we can’t physically remove it, I [would] sure like to make it something that people don’t see when they drive by,” she said.

TEXAS

A petition has been started to remove the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from the campus of the University of Texas in Austin.

Four other statues, including ones of Robert E. Lee and Albert Sydney Johnston, also have ties to the Confederacy. But all the focus now is on Davis, president of the seceding states.

“We feel like starting from the top is the way to go, and Jefferson Davis was president of the confederacy,” said Joe Deshotel, part of the Travis County Democrats and prominent organizer of the petition.

He said the statues should go and adds Davis belongs in history books and museums, not atop a pedestal on the way to the UT Tower.

On Tuesday, the statues of Davis and Johnson were defaced with the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter.’

“U.S. soldiers helped Iraqis take down the statue of Sadam Hussein,” said Deshotel. “Nobody thought for a second that his regime would be forgotten — and the scars that he put on that country would be forgotten — but it was important symbolism for liberation.”

Unlike Forrest, defenders of the Jefferson Davis statue say that he has more to his history than his role as President of the Confederacy. The statue also honors his role as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of War.

Stores pull merchandise

Since Monday several retailers have also dropped merchandise featuring the Confederate flag from their stores. WalMart, Sears and KMart were joined by online retailers Amazon and EBay.

“We never want to offend anyone with the products that we offer,” WalMart spokesman Brian Nick said. “We have taken steps to remove all items promoting the Confederate flag from our assortment — whether in our stores or on our web site.”

Recently a confederate war memorial was vandalized in Charleston, South Carolina, the scene of last weeks deadly rampage. Another was vandalized with the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ in Baltimore.

The debate rages online over what the flag truly stands for, why the states seceded, and whether or not removing the flag amounts to a whitewashing of history.

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