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S.C. Lawmakers OK Rebel Flag Plan

May 19, 2000|From Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Ending months of fierce debate, the South Carolina Legislature approved a compromise plan Thursday to move the Confederate flag from the Statehouse dome to a monument on the grounds.

The bill goes to Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges, who said he would sign it. The flag will come down July 1.

"I hope this represents the last battle of the Civil War," said Democratic state Sen. Dick Elliott.

South Carolina is the only state that still flies the flag, with its blue cross with white stars on a red background, above its statehouse.

It was hoisted in 1962 to commemorate the Civil War centennial, though critics say it was a gesture of defiance toward the civil rights movement. In 1995, the Legislature gave itself sole power to take the flag down.

The agreement that passed Thursday came after months of debate, marches and demonstrations that attracted thousands of flag supporters and opponents to the Statehouse. Supporters say it is an important part of the state's heritage; opponents say it represents slavery and racism.

The fervor is far from over. The National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People opposes moving the flag to a monument on Statehouse grounds, which it contends is still too prominent a place, and has said it will continue its 5-month-old tourism boycott of the state.

"The governor and the Legislature have taken a political position. The NAACP has a principled position," said Kweisi Mfume, president of the the civil rights group. "To take it from the top of the dome, where you had to strain to see it, and move it to a place where anyone coming down the main street will see it is an insult."

As for the NAACP boycott, Hodges said: "Well, I think that's going to fizzle."

The plan would move the flag to a 30-foot flagpole at a monument to Confederate War dead on the Statehouse grounds.

"I hope it brings finality. I hope it brings healing," said state Sen. Tom Moore, a Democrat who helped broker the deal.

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