Wednesday, the state of Alabama at the request of the governor removed the Confederate battle flags from Capitol grounds. The move comes as backlash over the flag’s symbolism of continues after the horrific shootings in South Carolina and photos emerging of the shooter holding a Confederate flag.
When asked whether there was a formal or written request to remove the flags, a spokesman for the governors office told Alabama Today, “The governor gave a verbal directive to remove the flags.”
When asked by a reporter whether their removal was in response to the Charleston shootings, AL.Com reports Gov. Robert Bentley said, “Yes, partially this is about that. This is the right thing to do. We are facing some major issues in this state regarding the budget and other matters that we need to deal with. This had the potential to become a major distraction as we go forward. I have taxes to raise, we have work to do. And it was my decision that the flag needed to come down.”
Tuesday, State Rep. Alvin Holmes called for the flag to be removed. Holmes told The Associated Press, “I think most people realize it’s divisive. It has no place on a public building.”
In a prepared statement issued after the removal, Speaker Mike Hubbard said, “Earlier today I asked the Clerk of the House to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Old House Chamber in the Capitol Building. Given the current environment, it became obvious that the presence of the flag in that historic chamber would become a distraction during the upcoming Special Session, possibly lead to protracted debate, and avert our attention from the Special Session’s main goal. By taking the proactive action of removing the flag, the Legislature can move forward in several different ways.”
Alabama U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell said she agreed with the governor’s decision: “The Confederate flag is a part of the South’s past, and that is where it should remain. I applaud Governor Bentley for removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state Capitol. His actions demonstrate the need for us to close that chapter of our history.”
Sewell continued, “The Confederate flag represents the fight for slavery and is a symbol of hate, not heritage. Our state government should not sanction bigotry but promote unity and respect for the rights of all Alabamians. It is time to leave behind racist vestiges of our past.”
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has called for the flags to be removed in that state. However, the removal of the flag requires a two-thirds supermajority vote in both legislative chambers.