South Carolina House Votes To Move Flag

By Associated Press


COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina's House gave final approval Thursday to a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse dome as opponents, in a last-ditch effort to derail the compromise, warned against giving in to "economic terrorism."

Many black lawmakers and the NAACP said that site still is too prominent, and the civil rights group refused to call off its tourism boycott of the state.

"This issue has not been completely resolved," said James Gallman, state president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "We accept partial victory."

"It's really just an insult to us," James Gallman said. "Certainly, this will not bring resolution to the issue."

The Republican-controlled House voted 63-56 late Wednesday to approve a Senate compromise bill to remove the flag from the dome and place a similar banner at a Statehouse monument to Confederate soldiers.

The numbers changed only slightly — 62-48 — in Thursday's procedural third reading vote after opponents such as Rep. Ron Flemming, a Jonesville Republican, told colleagues "I don't think we need to do this today. I don't think we need to give in to economic terrorism."

The bill now returns to the Democrat-controlled Senate, which has to approve House changes. Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges has said he would sign any bill the Legislature passes that would remove the flag.

The House version lowers the flag July 1. The Senate bill would lower it as soon as the governor signs the measure.

"We are one giant step closer to ending the flag debate," Hodges said Wednesday night.

The NAACP says even the monument is too prominent a location in front of the Statehouse.

Only three black House members voted for the compromise. In an odd coalition, black lawmakers worked with hard-core flag supporters during two days of debate to derail the plan.

"Unfortunately it's not over," said House Minority Leader Gilda Cobb-Hunter, who is black. "It's over for me, but I don't think it's over for the state."

The flag was raised above the Statehouse in 1962 to commemorate the Civil War centennial, though critics suggest it also was done in defiance of the civil rights movement. Flag supporters say it is an important part of the state's heritage. Opponents say it represents slavery and hatred.

While the House resumed debate today, senators marked the start of work on a $1.1 million African-American history monument on the Statehouse grounds.

Plans for the monument have been in the works for two years, but in recent months have been overshadowed by the flag debate. The monument's backers are about $200,000 short of the needed money, but hope to close that with a statewide fund drive this weekend.