A growing number of South Carolina lawmakers say they believe the Confederate flag should be removed from the grounds of the statehouse, though it's still too early to tell whether enough of them back the change to make it a reality.
The Post and Courier reached out to all 124 representatives and 46 senators to ask whether they stand on removing the Confederate flag and is tracking the responses live online. The "yes" votes constituted the most common opinion among those who had responded in both chambers of the legislature, but at least eight representatives have said no. Still, by later afternoon Tuesday, a significant percentage had not yet responded to the Post and Courier's queries.
The state's Republican leadership has resisted calls to remove the flag for years. As part of a political compromise reached in 2000, the flag was moved from the top of the Capitol to a Confederate monument in front of the statehouse - and any other changes to the flag's location must be approved by two-thirds of both bodies of the South Carolina legislature. Hours before they convene Tuesday, there will be a rally in front of the Statehouse to call on legislators to remove the flag.
On Monday, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley held a press conference with a bipartisan group of South Carolina lawmakers and said it's "time to move" the Confederate flag away from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse.
"One hundred and fifty years after the end of the Civil War, the time has come," she said. "There will be some in our state who will see this as a sad moment. I respect that. But know this: For good and for bad, whether it is on the statehouse grounds or in a museum, the flag will always be a part of the soil of South Carolina. But this is a moment in which we can say that that flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state."
The press conference came less than a week after nine people were shot to death in a Charleston church by a man who embraced the banner as a symbol of white power. South Carolina's two senators -- presidential candidate Lindsey Graham and Sen. Tim Scott, one of only two black U.S. senators, joined Haley for the press conference.
Haley promised to use her authority as governor to call back the legislature if they do not take steps to debate the removal of the flag this summer. She also promised that the views of those who want the flag to keep flying will be respected in the debate.
"This statehouse belongs to all of us," she said.
State Sen. Lee Bright, a Republican, has not yet responded to the Post and Courier's inquiry but did voice his opposition to Haley's push.
"There are those of us who have ancestors that fought and spilled blood on the side of the South when they were fighting for states' rights, and we don't want our ancestors relegated to the ash heaps of history," he told the New York Times. "Through the years, the heroes of the South have been slandered, maligned and misrepresented, and this is a further activity in that."
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