By Win McNamee/Getty Images
Monday marks the beginning of the debate over the flag's removal after the Charleston church massacre.
On Monday, South Carolina's legislative body will begin a special session, with debate expected on whether to remove the Confederate flag flying outside the statehouse—a flag whose controversial history came to the forefront after a racially motivated gunman shot and killed one of their colleagues, state senator Reverend Clementa Pinckney, in the basement of a church. But while it's widely expected to come down—a survey indicates that the vast majority of the House and Senate will vote to remove the flag—a small but vocal movement is urging lawmakers to keep the flag on the grounds.
In the days after Pinckney's death, as well as the deaths of eight other black parishioners in the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church, the flag's continued presence at the statehouse angered observers, reaching a point where formerly pro-flag Governor Nikki Haley gave an emotional speech demanding that the legislature take the flag down.
So far, about 33 senators and 83 representatives surveyed by The Post and Courier and the Associated Press say they will vote in favor of removing the flag—more than the two-thirds majority needed to remove the flag per South Carolina state law—while others declined to state their position until debate on the flag drew to a conclusion. The lawmakers quoted by the A.P. indicated that they wanted to find a home for the old flag in a museum or use a different, more appropriate Confederate-era flag to fly on the war memorial.
Representative Rick Quinn, a G.O.P. representative who said he would vote in favor of the flag's removal, noted that "some of us who would like to see some way for well-meaning, non-racist people who want to remember their relatives to continue to do that."
Not everyone is so tacit, however: a rally was recently held in front of the statehouse in favor of the flag, and a K.K.K. demonstration against the flag's removal is scheduled for July 18.
In addition, South Carolina newspaper The State reports that several lawmakers and their constituents, as well as business leaders calling for the flag's removal, have been the target of creepy robocalls demanding the flag stay up.
"Just like ISIS, [President] Obama's haters want our monuments down, graves dug up, and school [sic], roads, towns, and counties renamed. They've even taken Dukes of Hazzard off TV," the call, made by a group calling themselves the Conservative Response Team, reportedly said to roughly 40,000 call recipients. "What's next? This attack on our values is sick and un-American and it has to stop right here and right now in South Carolina."
The unnerving calls have not swayed the legislators: when Republican state representative Kirkman Finlay learned that a robocall targeted his colleague Senator John Courson and asked him to tell Finlay to reconsider, Finlay dismissed the message as "emotionally overwrought" and deliberately provocative.
"It is not an example of the grace we have seen since this tragedy took place," Finlay told The State.
Debate begins Monday at 1 P.M.