Future of Confederate flag on the line

South Carolina politicians planned to introduce a resolution last night to begin a debate on removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds following the killings last week of nine black churchgoers allegedly by a white gunman.

Future of Confederate flag on the line

Political leaders and civil rights organisations, including Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, also planned to rally in support of the measure on the steps of the State House in Columbia, about 190km from Charleston, the site of last Wednesday’s shooting.

The battle flag of the pro-slavery Confederacy has become a lightning rod for the outrage that has gripped the state over the apparent racist motives behind the massacre.

Federal authorities are investigating the attack as a hate crime by accused gunman Dylann Roof, 21, who posed with the flag in photos posted online.

Opponents of flying the flag at the State House grounds consider it an emblem of slavery that has become a rallying symbol for racism and xenophobia in the US.

Supporters see it is a symbol of the south’s history and culture, as well a memorial to the roughly 480,000 Confederate casualties during the 1861-65 civil war. That figure includes the dead, wounded and prisoners.

Republican South Carolina governor Nikki Haley said the time was right to take down the flag, which was put up at the State House a half century ago as resistance to federal efforts to end segregation in the south was at its peak.

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