Charleston shooting renews debate over Confederate flag

Confederate Battle Flag flying on the grounds of the South Carolina state capital in June 2015 (Photo courtesy of NBC News)

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Wednesday night’s shooting at an African American church in Charleston that left nine people dead has renewed the debate over the State of South Carolina flying a Confederate battle flag on the grounds of its statehouse.

Civil rights advocates argue progress has been hindered by the state’s continued flying the flag, especially in light of the fact that the flag insignia is displayed on the car driven by the suspected gunman.

Charleston’s complicated relationship is underscored by the fact that College of Charleston, the site of a Friday night prayer vigil, is led by Civil War re-enactor and enthusiast Glenn McConnell. The Charleston native with a thick southern drawl was perhaps the Confederate flag’s most ardent supporter during his tenure in the state Senate. He once deemed removing the flag from the Statehouse as “cultural genocide.”

South Carolina was the last state to fly the Confederate battle flag from its Capitol dome until in 2000 it was moved to a 30-foot flagpole in front of the building.

Among those who have called for removal of the flag is Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., who joined a 2000 march on the Capitol by nearly 50,000 people who wanted it taken down.

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