US & Canada

Confederate flag protests spread across US

Protesters rallied to have the flag taken down on Tuesday Image copyright AFP
Image caption Protesters rallied to have the flag taken down on Tuesday

Pressure is mounting to withdraw the Confederate battle flag across the US, after South Carolina lawmakers called for its removal from the state house.

Protesters rallied in Columbia on Tuesday to demand the flag's removal from South Carolina's state capitol.

Efforts are under way in four other states - Texas, Mississippi, Virginia and Tennessee - to remove state-sponsored Confederate tributes.

And some major retailers like Amazon and Walmart are also removing it.

The murder of nine parishioners at a historical black church in Charleston, South Carolina, last week renewed debate about the place of the flag in US culture.

The suspect, Dylann Roof, has appeared in many photos holding the flag.

The Confederate battle flag became a potent symbol for the southern states fighting the Civil War as they sought to break away from the union.

It is seen by some as an icon of slavery and racism while others say the banner symbolises their heritage and history.

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Media captionAleem Maqbool meets protesters in South Carolina

South Carolina's governor, Nikki Haley, has said the flag should come down and urged the legislature to act - it would require a two-thirds majority vote for that to happen.

A day later, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe announced he wants to have the flag removed from state licence plates. A recent US Supreme Court decision said states can restrict such designs.

Retailers saying 'no' to flag

  • Walmart
  • Sears
  • eBay
  • Amazon
  • Etsy
  • Google Shopping
  • several flag makers

In Mississippi, lawmakers plan on rolling out legislation that would remove the Confederate symbol from the state flag, where it is prominently displayed in the upper left corner.

"As a Christian, I believe our state's flag has become a point of offence that needs to be removed," said Mississippi representative Phillip Gunn.

But former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour said he was not offended at all by it.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Dylann Roof posing with the flag
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Media captionDashcam footage of the moment Dylann Roof is arrested

Lawmakers in Tennessee said they need to "revisit" whether a bust of a former Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader should be displayed in the capitol.

The push was not only limited to state governments as Walmart, Sears, Amazon and eBay announced that they would stop selling Confederate flag merchandise.

And Hillary Clinton added her voice to the debate on Tuesday when she said it was a "symbol of our racist past".

Amid calls for Confederate tributes to be removed, some have been the target of vandals.

In downtown Charleston, a statue of former politician and defender of slavery John C Calhoun was defaced with the word "racist" scrawled underneath.

Birth of a flag

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Confederate battle flag is part of Mississippi's state flag
  • seen today on houses, bumper stickers and T-shirts (and Mississippi flag, above)
  • sometimes accompanied by the words "If this shirt offends you, you need a history lesson"
  • but it was never the official national flag of the Confederacy, rejected in 1861
  • instead adopted as battle flag by the Army of Northern Virginia under General Lee
  • it fast became a potent symbol of Confederate nationalism, more popular than the official national flag

Why do people still fly the Confederate flag?