SOUTH CAROLINA: Gov. Haley: Time to move Confederate flag from Capitol grounds
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol following the fatal shooting of nine African Americans in a Charleston church. (South Carolina ETV)

The Supreme Court decision and the Charleston shootings have prompted a renewed, nationwide conversation about the Confederate flag. Also this week, retail giant Wal-Mart announced it would no longer sell merchandise featuring the emblem.

Columbia, S.C.

Columbia, S.C.

Wading into Confederate history can be tricky in Virginia, where people of all political stripes can be found touting the bravery of Confederate troops. Every Jan. 21, when the birthday of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson rolls around, the Virginia Senate adjourns for the day in his honor — with the blessing of Republicans and Democrats alike.

In Virginia, political leaders initially had been circumspect about what do to about the license plate.

When news of the Supreme Court ruling broke Thursday, McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said any change would be up the General Assembly. Herring spokesman Michael Kelly referred questions to the Department of Motor Vehicles. A spokeswoman there said officials would review the ruling but also “defer to the legislature for direction.” Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said through a spokesman that he, too, was reviewing the matter.

But on Tuesday, McAuliffe described the change as central to his mission to boost Virginia’s economy, Herring said the move was long overdue, and Howell said he was on board with removing the image, noting that the legislature never wanted it on the plates to begin with.

In 1999, the General Assembly authorized Sons of Confederate Veterans license plates but prohibited logos and emblems on them. The group sued, and a U.S. district court ruled in 2001 that the restriction violated the organization’s First Amendment rights.

The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles challenged the decision, but a federal appeals court ruled that the state’s stance amounted to discrimination.

Virginia started issuing plates with the image in 2002, with about 1,600 on the road today.

The majority in the Supreme Court ruling held that the design proposed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Texas would not simply reflect the views of the motorists who purchase it but would instead represent government speech.

Earnest has one of the plates on his truck and another specialty tag, honoring Gen. Robert E. Lee, on the van he uses for his Virginia Beach electrical contracting business. (Coy did not immediately respond to a question about whether there are any plans to eliminate the Lee plate.)

Earnest said the plates are not meant to convey a racist message but are meant to honor relatives who fought in the war, including Eusebius Fowlkes, whom he described as his “great-grandfather double first cousin.” Fowlkes died in 1862 at the Battle of Seven Pines outside Richmond. On Tuesday, Earnest visited a marker honoring him — his body was never found — at Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery.



VIRGINIA: Governor Plans to Phase Out Confederate Plates

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Tuesday that he will phase out a state-sponsored license plate featuring an image of the Confederate flag.

At an appearance in Richmond, the city that served as the capital of the Confederacy, McAuliffe (D) called the symbol “unnecessarily divisive and hurtful.”

The announcement comes in the aftermath of the shooting deaths of nine members of a historically African American church in Charleston, S.C., allegedly by Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white man who, according to police, wanted “to start a race war.”

It comes just one day after South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) called for the flag to be removed from the grounds of that state’s capitol — and the week after the Supreme Court ruled that Texas is free to reject a specialized license plate featuring the Confederate flag.

The court ruling throws into question an older decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which found that the plates are private speech. Virginia and Maryland have been under court order to offer specialty plates for the Sons of Confederate Veterans featuring the flag insignia.

Virginia will continue to offer the plate but will no longer include the flag insignia. Those already on the road will be replaced, McAuliffe said.

Whether Sons of Confederate Veterans members will willingly part with the plates is unclear.

“I suppose just like in 1861, when armed representatives from the government come to take them away from me by force, I only have two choices: Take up arms like my ancestors did or comply,” said Frank Earnest, past commander of the Virginia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

“Right now,” he added, “I’m going to comply.”

McAuliffe said he has asked Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) and his transportation secretary, Aubrey Layne, to start the process of reversing the prior court ruling and replacing the current plates “as quickly as possible.”

“Although the battle flag is not flown here on Capitol Square, it has been the subject of considerable controversy, and it divides many of our people,” McAuliffe said. “Even its display on state-issued license tags is, in my view, unnecessarily divisive and hurtful to too many of our people.”



NORTH CAROLINA: Governor Wants Confederate Flag Off License Plates

Gov. Pat McCrory plans to ask the N.C. General Assembly to pass a law that would end the use of the Confederate battle flag on specialty license plates issued by the state.

McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis confirmed Tuesday the governor’s decision to ask legislators to make the change in light of the mass shootings in Charleston, S.C. and a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed Texas to refuse to issue license plates that show the Confederate flag.

NCDMV The N.C. DOT currently offers a Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate along with 155 other specialty plates. Gov. McCrory has proposed discontinuing the use of the plate.

The N.C. DOT currently offers a Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate along with 155 other specialty plates. Gov. McCrory has proposed discontinuing the use of the plate.

“The time is right,” Ellis said.

McCrory action comes a day after S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley said that she supports removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds in Columbia, S.C.

Haley said she was moved to action because after the mass shooting last week at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.

Dylann Roof, 21, a white man, is accused of killing nine black people last Wednesday in the historic church.

Roof is shown on the website,, posing for a photo holding a Confederate flag and a handgun.

North Carolina prints specialty plates for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, with a logo featuring the Confederate flag. The commander of the group’s N.C. division couldn’t be reached for comment.

There are more than 2,000 active SCV plates in the state, Division of Motor Vehicles spokesman Steve Abbott said.

Shelly Carver, spokeswoman for Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said the issue raised by McCrory “is one that can be addressed by the executive branch” because DMV is responsible for approving plate designs. But Abbott said DMV usually is not involved in the plate design, leaving it to the organization.

There was no immediate response from the office of House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland.

The Rev. Willard Bass, director of Dismantling Racism in Winston-Salem, said he agreed with McCrory.

“It’s an excellent idea,” Bass said.

The Confederate flag represents a history “that doesn’t serves our community going forward and being a more diverse community for all people,” Bass said.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans specialty plate was first issued in North Carolina 1998, Abbott said. A state law authorized a specialty plate for “civic clubs” in part if DMV received at least 300 applications from a particular club. Unlike other specialty plate laws, the statute makes no specific reference to the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

DMV initially didn’t approve the request by the group. The refusal ultimately went to court, where the Court of Appeals ruled the group met the law’s definitions of being “nationally recognized” and “civic” in nature, as well as performing historical and benevolent activities.

The Confederate flag is a divisive issue across the South. Many blacks consider it a symbol of slavery and racism, while some whites believe that it’s part of their Southern heritage and pays tribute to the Confederate soldiers in the Civil War.

Major retailers such as Walmart, Sears, and Ebay have said they would pull Confederate flags and merchandise bearing the flag from their store shelves and websites this week.

A spokeswoman for Mast General Store, based in Watauga County, said Tuesday that it also would stop selling Confederate military caps in its stores, including its recently opened store on Trade Street in Winston-Salem, by the end of the week.

In North Carolina, the Confederate national flag, not the battle flag, flies above old State Capitol in Raleigh twice a year, said Cary Cox, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

The flag with white stars in a blue field with red and white bars is displayed on Jan. 19, the birthday of Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during most of the Civil War.

The flag is also displayed at the State Capitol on May 10, which is Confederate Memorial Day in North Carolina. State legislators passed resolution in 1961 that allowed organizations to fly the flag over the State Capitol on those two dates, Cox said.

The Confederate flag also is displayed in museums at four state historic sites in North Carolina — at Bennett Place in Durham, at Bentonville Battlefield at Four Oakes in Johnston County, at the CSS Neuse exhibit in Kinston and at Fort Fisher at Kure Beach in New Hanover County, said Cox and Dale Coats, the deputy director of the N.C. Historic Sites.

The flag is displayed at those sites “because that is part of our history,” Coats said. “We do it in context of each historic site. That’s part of our mission.”

His agency hasn’t received any public complaints about those Confederate flags, Coats said. No state-owned building outside of Raleigh displays the Confederate flag, Cox said.

In April 2013, a Confederate battle flag that hung inside the old State Capitol was removed after civil rights leaders complained about it. State officials had planned to hang the flag inside the capitol until April 2015 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of federal troops in Raleigh.

That flag was taken to the N.C. Museum of History, which is across Edenton Street from the capitol, and displayed in there with other Confederate flags flown in the state during the Civil War, said Susan Lamb, a museum spokeswoman.

In March 2006, a Confederate flag flying on a pole in a field just across the Forsyth-Davie county line on Interstate 40 was removed after flying for more than 10 years. The Community Foundation of Davie County persuaded Bert Bahnson, the landowner at the time, to allow the organization to bring down flag, saving it was a divisive symbol.

Bahnson, a former Davie County commissioner, said in 2006 that he raised the flag as a protest symbolizing “a Southerner doing battle with urban sprawl.”

The Rev. William Barber, the president of the N.C. chapter of the NAACP, said that the Confederate flag belongs in museums and not over the State Capitol or any public building.

“It is a symbol of terror, hate and treason to America’s ideal,” Barber said.



GEORGIA: Governor Seeks Redesign of Confederate Flag License Plate

ATLANTA — In an about face, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced on Tuesday that he would seek a redesign of the state-issued license plate bearing the image of the Confederate battle flag. Deal initially said he wouldn’t urge changes.

Public display of the Confederate flag has come under fire in the week since nine African Americans were killed attending Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church inCharleston, S.C. The accused shooter, Dylann Roof, 21, is linked to a manifesto that professes white supremacy.

(Photo: (Photo: Georgia Department of Revenue via AP))

(Photo: Georgia Department of Revenue via AP)

The design on Georgia’s license plate from the Sons of Confederate Veterans features the group’s logo prominently up front as the Confederate battle flag covers the background. It also has the words “Sons of Confederate Veterans” where the county name is usually placed on the plates.

Deal issued a statement Tuesday saying: “Georgia has faced down this controversy before, has found solutions that brought people together instead of dividing them and has come through those debates a more united people. I know we can do that again. Georgia celebrates its diversity, its commitment to equality for all and its tolerance of all viewpoints.”

Earlier Tuesday, Deal told reporters he wouldn’t urge lawmakers to take any action on the plate.

Deal, who expressed no concerns about the tag after the larger flag was added in February of 2014, told reporters Tuesday that his position had not changed. He said lawmakers have the authority to eliminate specialty plates.

“I’m not going to suggest to them one way or the other what they do,” Deal said.

Deal’s aides soon called reporters back to the governor’s office where Deal said he backed a redesign. He said that can be completed without any action from lawmakers and said his office “will move immediately in that direction.”

“It’s an effort to not let this become an issue in Georgia,” Deal said.

Asked whether he wants the flag removed from the plate, Deal said that would be part of discussion with the Sons of Confederate Veterans organization.

“I doubt that they would agree to not have some representation of the Sons of the Confederacy,” he said. “They deserve to have us discuss it with them as well as with any other parties that have an interest in it.”

Representatives for the group were not immediately available.

About 3,500 Georgia plates are the Sons of Confederate Veterans specialty plates, according to the governor’s statement.

In South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley has called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the State Capitol grounds. On Tuesday, South Carolina lawmakers agreed to debate the fate of the Confederate battle flag.

In Mississippi on Monday, House Speaker Philip Gunn called for the Confederate emblem to be removed from the state flag. A petition to remove the emblem has more than 43,600 signatures.

Also Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, moved to have the Confederate flag banished from state license plates.

On Tuesday, major retailers Amazon, eBay and Sears joined Walmart in removing rebel-flagged items from their shelves and websites.



MISSISSIPPI: House Speaker Wants to Remove Confederate Emblem From State Flag 

JACKSON, Miss. – The Republican Speaker of Mississippi’s House of Representatives has called for the Confederate emblem to be removed from the state flag’s design.

On the heels of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s speech calling for the Confederate flag to be removed from state grounds, Philip Gunn has made a similar plea.

Mississippi State Flag.

Mississippi State Flag.

“We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us,” Gunn wrote on Facebook on Monday, June 22, 2015. “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.”

The debate surrounding the Confederate flag has been reignited after Wednesday’s shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, that left nine black parishioners dead at the hands of a proclaimed white supremacist. After Dylann Roof was captured Thursday, photos emerged of Roof posing with the Confederate battle flag and holding his firearm.

The Confederate flag debate is nothing new for Mississippians. In 2001, voters were asked to choose between two versions of the state flag: One including the Confederate stars and bars, and one without. Voters chose to keep the Confederate emblem by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.

The debate surrounding the Confederate flag

Back in 2001, Mississippians voted to keep the state flag. However, in the wake of the South Carolina massacre and the confederate flag flying at its Capitol, the conversation as reignited.

The flag is central to a long-running debate about southern heritage. Many people hold the flag to resemble their ancestors and the history of southern states, especially serving in the Civil War.

“It’s a flag of honor. It’s a flag these men took in to battle. It was not a political statement these men were given. These men were giving their lives for their homeland,” says Chuck Bond, Historian in Chief for the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

“We want to remember those men. They are family members, there are pictures on our walls, their names are in our Bibles. They’re a part of us, their DNA is in us,” Randy Burbage of the Sons of Confederate Veterans told CBS News.

But many others cannot separate the flag that also stood as an icon against civil rights and in support of slavery. The Confederate flag was adopted by several white supremacist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, who have used the symbol to spread its racist ideals.

According to NAACP president Cornell Brooks, the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate and a symbol that divides Americans.

“The flag has to come down,” Brooks said Friday during a news conference. “We say this not because we’re trying to sow division, but rather because we’re trying to sow unity – a unity of purpose, a unity of commitment, a unity of resolve – so that we confront the racism in our midst. And that means, certainly symbolically, we cannot have the Confederate flag waving in the state capitol.”

Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, said, “For African Americans when we see the confederate flag and for many others we also see that as a sign of racial hatred. We believe that the emblem of the confederate flag should not be flown or embedded in the Mississippi flag nor should it nor should it be flown in front of the state Capitol of South Carolina.”